A Vision of Ash (pt. 1)

The Beginning
The Beginning of Part Two
The Beginning of Part Three
The Beginning of this Part

“I won’t hear another word on it.”

Telfor’s shoulder’s slumped at the forcefulness of the words. He knew better than anyone when Jasha’s mind was made up there was no changing it. He stood by the fire, arms crossed as her shaking hands splashed water into her cup and the table surrounding.
Her flesh was pale and tinged with the unwholesome grey of burn out. It wouldn’t kill her. Not by itself. And she would recover in time with rest, but without a healer complications were possible.

Through his concern for his wife, Telfor felt Laurin’s hand on his shoulder its presence comforted him. He touched Laurin’s hand with his own. He appreciated the tenderness, with everything they had faced in the past month he felt tired.
Looking around the bar he saw soldiers of The Reborn had started to arrive for the muster. The date was for only a couple days and he still didn’t know the fallout for bringing the prisoner to Arnhilde, if that was even still what he planned to do.
Before he could give that thought too much attention, Telfor noticed Vahkragg in conversation with one of the soldiers. The giant responded with what would be unnoticable to most but to Telfor who had known the plainsman for years it was clear whatever news he had received was bad.

“Captain. Pike’s Reach.”

Telfor’s vision grew long, somehow he already knew.

His mind retreated and he physically turned away, not hearing if Vahkragg finished explaining that his home had fallen. Laurin hurried to keep up, his words buzzed in Telfor’s ears, their meaning drowned out by the rushing of blood.
The front door of the Inn slammed open before him. He felt a pressure holding him back and spun around to dislodge it saw Laurin there, and Jasha struggling after them aided by Vahkragg. The concern in their eyes brought him back to reality for the moment. The four companions stood together in the cool evening air, the night felt so peacefully ambivalent to all the suffering beneath it.

“Pike’s Reach. The undead we saw on the road. It’s gone.”

The words left Telfor in a disconected monotone. Neither Jasha nor Laurin had words in the face of the news. An arctic whisper from behind Telfor however managed to respond.

“Pike’s Reach is gone?”

Telfor turned, Pan and Zsófia stood having just arrived from around the corner. The revenant’s eyes reflected the moonlight barely containing the startling rage his kind bore.

Telfor answered him with his eyes, he couldn’t find the words to fit the feelings in his chest.

“I met a family at the gate, they had come from there.” Zsófia said quietly.

Pan slowly rounded on her, the glow in his eyes and the mist on his breath steadily increasing “You knew? You knew and you didn’t tell me?”

Zsófia took half a step back involuntarily, clearly not understanding his rage.

“I didn’t think… I didn’t know it mattered.”

“You didn’t know it mattered that my home was destroyed?”

Before things could move any further Jasha positioned herself between the two of them and embraces Pan. The unexpected tenderness distracted the revenant from his anger.

“She didn’t know Pan, she couldn’t have known.” Jasha whispered, a mixture of soothing and stern, “Don’t be angry at her.”

“That’s right.” Jasha’s words brought Telfor’s anger back to clarity, “This is the Reeve’s fault. We warned Arnhilde of the undead, they should have sent soldiers to intercept them before anyone had been harmed.”

There was a pause as everyone considered that. It was true, Pike’s Reach was not far, if word was only just starting to arrive of the village’s destruction then there would have been more than enough time to stop this tragedy between when Arnhilde had received their warning and the attack. It made no sense.

“Pan, start the muster early. Round up every soldier already in Capital and make sure they’re battle ready as soon as possible. I’m going to the courthouse now to get answers from Arnhilde.”

Laurin and Jasha exchanged looks, Telfor knew what those looks meant, they were worried he was about to do something impulsive. He supposed they were probably right.

“At least take the Priest with you.” Laurin said, “If you don’t like their answers you’ll at least need their gold.”

Jasha nodded, supporting her weight against Vahkragg as subtly as she could. Her colour was looking even worse, almost enough to turn Telfor away from his anger. But he knew her better than to try and coddle her.

In a flurry of activity, Pan left to organise the muster while Vahkragg retrieved the priest. Telfor quietly helped Jasha back to her seat and left Laurin to keep an eye on her, letting himsef momentarily let go of his anger to feel grateful for having them both.
As Telfor waited for Vahkragg to return with the prisoner, Zsófia approached him nervously. The old soldier realised the girl must be quite confused and frightened.

“Telfor, what’s going on?”

“That’s what I’m hoping to find out. Pike’s Reach is where Pan and I grew up, where many of our family’s still live.” He winced at the words, praying they did still live, “There should have been no chance of even so small a village being overrun with forewarning though. University scholar’s could have scried the undead and soldiers destroyed them without issue. Someone fucked up, and I intend to know who.”

“And then what?”

“Then…” It wasn’t that he didn’t know what then, it was that saying it out loud was a step further than he was willing to commit to just yet, “We will come to that when we come to that.”

Vahkragg emerged from the Inn, the prisoner being led firmly by his side. Zsófia’s expression seemed no less fearful than before she had asked, least of all with the further questions the presence of the priest in the garb she could not recognise as bearing the symbol of the church of Atyx, but she didn’t ask, and Telfor didn’t volunteer any further explanations. She simply made her way inside, seeking the familiarity of healing duties in aiding Jasha as Telfor and Vahkragg marched with purpose into the night in the direction of the courthouse.

Only two months this time. Gonna see if I can’t find it in my to make another one next week. We’re in the final stretch of this story, I’ll be aiming to wrap it up and start on another new unrelated story. Maybe I’ll take this story and edit it all together after, not sure yet.

Thanks everyone who’s read anything I’ve written. I appreciate it, didn’t think I’d actually manage to get down as much as I did when I started writing. Maybe by the end of they year I’ll have a second full story done. I’d feel pretty proud of that.

– Zairron

Concord of the Reborn (pt. 11)

The Beginning
The Beginning of Part Two
The Beginning of this Part

The chill of morning bore the deeper cutting edge of winter come early on the soft wind. Zsófia walked a step or two behind Rubin and Pan, yawning as often as breathing. She’d fallen out of the habit of early mornings while staying at The Valiant Retreat and on top of that Pan set a punishing pace.

Turning her focus inside Zsófia examined the sensation of where once The Horned God had infested her. The chilling silence that seemed to radiate from the wards Edda had bound the shard was numbing and unsettling. Checking on it brought her comfort despite the unwholesomeness of it.
Returning her focus to the world outside herself, Zsófia looked over at Pan and Rubin. Ever since the visit to the cathedral their already tense relationship had grown downright icy. It made her nervous. As much as she wanted to trust Pan, she saw him as a friend and thought he felt the same to her, his temper was frightening.
The group continued in silence as the sun rose and settled high into the sky bringing welcomed warmth and an even more welcomed sight ahead.

“Capital,” Rubin declared, “The Heart of the Empire. Seat of the Throne. Home of diplomacy and commerce.”

Zsófia’s eyes widened in awe as with every step closer the city on the horizon seemed to grow in size and imperiousness. After Verwich she thought she had known what a city could be, but for all it’s winding and sprawling streets and character it held not a candle to Capital in terms of majesty.

“It’s made of stone,” she said.

“That’s right, magically and alchemically reinforced stone at that.” Rubin lectured, “It is said that an enemy army employing standard seige weapons could not even tanish the stone if they spent a year and a day battering on it.”

Zsófia blinked at him. In her home the act of collecting enough wood to build a single house was a dangerous and slow task. The rituals to placate the forest, hunters to ward off any beast, monsters, or fae, all on top of the people needed to chop down and transport the wood. How much work must enough stone to build a city require?

Eventually they arrived at the gates. A great stone arch which can be sealed with steel and thick wood looms above casting a shadow over the crowds of people waiting outside. Almost as impressive to Zsófia as the city itself are the number of people making their ways in and out of the gates.

“A lot of soldiers at the gates,” Rubin stated quietly.

Pan’s gaze remained fixed on the crowd ahead.

“A lot of people coming through as well,” Rubin continued, “There’s no occasion to attract people, has something happened I wonder?”

The question hangs heavy. Looking around with Rubin’s hint Zsófia recognises the haggard and weary looks on a great number of the people who don’t seem to be trying to enter the city.
Zsófia’s felt torn with wanting to help them and not knowing how to. It seemed to her like they were being ignored, left to linger outside the walls waiting for something that may not be coming. Stepping away from the line and her companions, Zsófia approaches a girl around her own age who seemed to be listlessly waiting.

“Excuse me,” she asked, “Are you alright?”

The girl looked back suspiciously, glanced back over her shoulder before she nodded guardedly.

“I’m sorry, I just noticed there seemed to be a lot of people waiting here. You seem like something had happened.”

A look covered the girls face, a powerful sadness, “We’re from Pike’s Reach. We were attacked. The whole town. Destroyed by undead.”

The knowledge struck Zsófia like a blow. The undead force must have been the same that Telfor and his band had encountered on their way to her village. Did Telfor and Vahkragg not make it in time to warn, or was the warning not taken seriously enough?
She wanted to help the girl, but there was nothing she could do. Edda had warned her only to use her magic as sparingly as possible lest it weaken the wards on her. Beyond that she had no money, nothing else she could give her.

“I am so sorry,” she whispers.

The girl nods acknowledgement of the platitude blinking back tears. Rather than linger unhelpfully Zsófia returned to join Pan and Rubin in line.
Before long the group are searched and permitted entrance to the city. Once inside Pan turned and addressed them.

“I’m going to find Telfor and deliver the High Priestesses letter. Zsófia I’d recommend you stay with Rubin, Capital is not always safe for the unitiated.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of her.”

“Make lodging arrangements for Zsófia. You know the muster date and schedule for The Reborn, make sure you’re there.”

“Of course, sir. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Rubin answers, his voice thick with annoyed sarcasm.

Without reaction to the scholar’s tone, Pan departs with just a moment spared for a friendly smile and nod in Zsófia’s direction.
The moment he was out of sight, Rubin let out a long tired sigh.

“At last!” he said with a smile to Zsófia, “I am very sorry you had to be subject to one of his moods. Try not to think too poorly of us as your hosts, Pan has a lot on his shoulders right now and I do unfortunately have to take credit for much of that. Hopefully his mood will be improved by the time we re-unite with him. Until then, let us find some lodgings for you. Would you rather join me in church lodgings, or perhaps you’ve spent enough time with the clergy and would prefer an inn?”

An involuntary grimace crosses Zsófia’s face before she could answer, the recollection of Edda and her ambush still fresh. As much as she came to appreciate the old woman, Zsófia still felt the betrayal.

“An Inn it is,’ Rubin interjected, “I’ll take you to the Pikeman’s Rest. It’s where most of The Reborn with no-where else end up. Don’t worry we’ll find you an actual room too, not just flop lodgement, I think we owe you that much at least!”

And with that Rubin led her through the paved streets of Capital, prattling on with the historical relevance of whatever caught his interest. Zsófia however only half listened, her mind was on the girl outside the gate and thinking back on her own journey wondering if there was anything she could have done differently that may have gotten Telfor and his warning to Capital in time to save that girl’s home.

In my defense, it was a much shorter wait between story entries than last time. Only three months this time. Maybe next time it’ll only be one month, or even less! Imagine the possibilities!

– Zairron

Concord of the Reborn (pt. 10)

The Beginning
The Beginning of Part Two
The Beginning of this Part

The alley swims in Telfor’s vision. His head throbs where he’d been struck. If the Anir find them again he won’t be much help.
Jasha’s unnatural ashen pallor also worries him. She’d burned herself out with magic to protect him. The tremor in her hands a bad sign.
That left Vahkragg and Laurin. Capable soldiers, but the Anir were dangerous. The best bet will be avoiding them.

“Give me Diatter,” He says, “Jasha, can you run?”

“I’ll manage.”

Telfor clenches his jaw, but takes her at her word, “We’re in bad shape for a fight in the open so plan is we’re taking the prisoner straight to the courthouse as quick and quiet as we can manage. Either those killers are still after us and nearby, or they’ll be back soon with reinforcements. Either way we don’t want to be here any longer.”

Giving the captive priest a shove, Telfor leads the group deeper into the labyrinthine back streets of Capital.
Laurin moves to the front of the group. Keeping an eye ahead and checking corners for dangers while Vahkragg keeps to the rear. Laurin’s knowledge of the city is as good as Telfor’s own and he takes them through an unlit path avoiding main thoroughfares expertly.
The priests neighbourhood is far behind them when Laurin starts increasing the pace. They’re almost running when Telfor notices Jasha’s breath growing more ragged and gasping. Glancing back at her he’s immediately startled by her stark paleness.

“Laurin, we have to-“

Shut!” Jasha hisses as sharply as she can while staying quiet.

Telfor looks back at her again. She signs that they’re being tracked by two hidden enemies. Looking around, Telfor doesn’t notice any sign of it, but knows enough to trust Laurin and Jasha here.
Suddenly Laurin ducks into a dark shallow dead-end alley and draws his shield and sword as the others fall in behind him. Jasha all but collapses on the dirt the moment she stops running, tremor spread from her hands all through her body now.

Telfor drops his grip on the prisoner to catch her and Diatter immediately tries to make a run for it only to be caught by Vahkragg within just a couple of steps and dragged into the dark alley.

“Make a sound and your ancestors will regret it.”

The sounds of Jasha struggling to supress a cough and draw a breath seems so loud so loud in the silence of the night.
As slowly and quietly as he can Telfor draws his own blade. Still feeling far from stable he expects it won’t matter much, but it felt better to be armed.

“Be not afraid.”

The tone carried the authority of absolute confidence as it rung in their ears. A strangely resonante voice that seemed to come from all directions at once. Casting their gaze around in search of the source they found no sign amongst the shadows of the alley.

“Your sins need not be mortal. Turn over the sinner and your will be permitted reprieve.”

The offer made sense. The stories of Anir’s killers made them sound inhuman. Unstoppable and emotionless. If Diatter was their target, whether they sought to rescue or kill him, they had no reason to risk an unecessary fight and from where Telfor stood the offer was tempting.
The Anir were stronger and faster than natural people, likely enhanced by ether stones beneath concealed within their attire. On their side only Vahkragg and Laurin were in any shape to fight and even if they were a match for the Anir ordinarily their magically enhanced abilities were a significant handicap.
He didn’t like the idea of bringing a second failed contract report to Arnhilde in a row almost as much as he didn’t like the idea of having their corpses found by the guard in the morning, but only marginally.

“I have no desire to stand at odds with the Pantheon, but I assure you my detainment of this man is lawful.”

There was a pause.

“Whose authority do you serve?”

Telfor clenched his jaw. Drawing their more powerful foe into a dialogue had been a win, but the whole reason they were on this contract was to keep the Pantheon in the dark.

Fucking politics.

“I have a writ signed by the Reeve empowered by the authority of the Crown to detain this Priest.”

And now he’d done it. Whatever kind of incident Arnhilde had been trying to avoid was now in motion. He prayed that he’d gambled on the right horse.

“I will approach to inspect the writ. Come to the alley entrance.”

You’ll go way of a lone tax payer that’s what Laurin had said would happen. Glancing over Telfor could see Laurin hadn’t changed his mind on how he expected this to go.
With a heavy sigh Telfor fished the writ from his pocket and before anything else he felt Jasha pull him into her arms as she kissed him deeply.

“Leave Sara without a father and I will never forgive you.”

Pressing his forehead against hers in silent answer, Telfor pulled away and stepped out into the alley mouth ready to be devoured.
As if materialising from the shadows themselves, the Anir was there before it registered to Telfor that he could see them. The figure was just as indistinguishable here as they had been in the fight. They were tall and strong. But clothed and masked as they were neither gender nor enthnicity were recognisable.
The writ was exchanged and examined before being wordlessly returned. The figure examined Telfor wordlessly.

“Why did you not simply request this man from The Church? That is the usual manner for such matters.”

“I’m just a mercenary, these were my instructions.”

“Why was the arrest of a low ranking priest within Capitol assigned to mercenaries? Surely the Guard would have been cheaper and more efficient.”

Telfor resisted the urge to roll his eyes. It seemed the stories of the Anir were just exaggerated, as deadly fighters as they had been they were quite transparent with their fishing for information.

“I’m sure you know better than I. Is there anything I could tell you that would change what happens here?”


“Then let’s stop wasting time. I don’t intend to throw away mine and my companions’ lives for a contract, you can have him if you’re willing to risk forcing the Crown’s hand by interfering in their carrying out of justice. Or you can let us go, and we can have a conversation about keeping your involvement out of our report.”

“Your assessment of the situation is audacious, but not at odds with ours.” The mask concealing the Anir’s expression made the exchange even more offputting than the threat to their lives already was, “We request that you leave our presence secret, both officially and unoffocially. Is this acceptable to you?”

Telfor felt a sickly wave of relief flood him, tainted by suspicion born from the immediate and uncomplicated acceptance from the Anir, “It is.”

“Then may Anir walk with you this Night”

And almost before the words were out of their mouth, the Anir was gone as if dispersed by the shadows. They were probably still nearby, Telfor supposed, likely intending to follow them the rest of the way. Anir was the God of secrets and knowledge after all. By the end of the night if the Anir didn’t know everything about the four of them and their families, that would be the greatest miracle he could imagine.

Telfor raised his voice to the others within the alley, “Come on, we’re free to go. Let’s not give them the time to change their minds.”

Been a long time since I’ve done one of these. Hopefully it’ll be a lot less long before the next one. But no promises. I like writing, but starting things is hard even when I like doing them.

I considered abandoning this story and starting something else. For one thing it’s been so long I’ve forgotten a lot of detail. For another there’s some huge continuity errors and other problems that giving up and starting over could potentially avoid.

But I’ve been learning recently that doing something badly is better than giving up cause it’s not perfect.

It’s a hard lesson, but not one that’s got much to argue so I’m gonna try and find a bit of an ending for this mess before I make a new mess. And besides, I think some of the prose in this story hasn’t been half bad.

– Zairron

Vicissitudes in the Dark Woods (pt. 11)

“Tell me, little girl,” Edda’s rough voice cut through Zsófia’s awe at the bustling city, “Do you love your Horned God?”

Startled by a mule drawn cart that seemed to come from no-where, Zsófia clung tightly to the older woman. The city felt so much bigger, louder, and more frightening now that Rubin’s malediction wasn’t hung so imminently over their heads. The vibrant, attention grabbing colours that loudly proclaimed the presence of merchants, taverns, and other stranger stores were overwhelming when trying to comprehend them all.
Edda had taken Zsófia under her wing these past few days, during which she had shown the girl a significant amount of the city while she tended to her patients. The entire experience had been exhausting for Zsófia but at the same time she had learned a lot about the subtleties of using magic to bolster the sickly and alleviate suffering. She’d developed a strong affection towards the older woman, while learning the vast gulf between their knowledge as healers and a healthy respect for her force of personality.

“I…” The question was difficult, not for finding the answer but for delivering it without defying His precepts, “Am grateful to the protection He has provided my family.”

Edda barked out a laugh, “I see, I see. And are you looking forward to returning to His domain?”

Zsófia remained silent. The truth was that she wanted nothing more than to leave the forest behind and see the world outside, but if she didn’t return He would punish the villagers in her stead. Her thoughts were her own, but to speak them out loud would leave her as Rubin.
With no answer given, Edda’s jovial expression hardened into it’s resting state, indistinguishable from a glare. The rest of their walk was made in silence. Zsófia’s attention was once again so swept up in the commotion that she didn’t even notice they had arrived until Edda announced it.

“Here we are dear,” Edda’s voice was lower but still just as clear, “This is The Resting.”

Before them was a humble, but large building. Similar to the store houses Edda had called Warehouses, but with a corner of the top of the building lowered to form a large balcony that overlooked the street below. With the only symbol identifying the building being a white circle with a crescent painted over a grey background which resembled either a closed eye or waning moon, Zsófia couldn’t immediately understand the purpose of this building the way she could most others.

“What is this place?” She asked.

Edda led Zsófia through the door into the building. Inside The Resting was almost as open as the warehouses, but instead of stores of goods stacked on shelves, The Resting was a chaotic mixture of kitchen, dining hall, sitting area, beds, and library. In spite of this assortment of services, and the large number of people, many with children, using them there was a strange serenity.
Giving Zsófia no time to stand by and try to figure out the building, Edda guided her without slowing her pace after entering the building. Weaving through the people eating, sleeping, and reading, they reached and ascended a staircase at the deepest point of the hall where the light from the massive windows along the front and side had begun to fade. Something about the shadows and Edda’s silence made Zsófia nervous, but still she followed.
At the top of the stairs, the only light came from a row of candles that flickered along the walls and the quickly receeding sunlight that just barely peeked over the lip of the steps.

“The Resting is a community hall. Built by the Earl and blessed by Lord Anir, the God of Darkness, this is a place for those who fortune has overlooked.”

“And why have we come here?”

“Why? Aren’t you one who fortune has overlooked?” Edda barked out another laugh.

Edda pulled a ring of keys from a pocket Zsófia hadn’t even known was there before she saw the keys pulled from it, and likely couldn’t have found again even after. Twisting one of the keys in the lock, the door opened to a room completely filled with darkness. Immediately she stepped inside and with a rippling in the ether a globe hung from the roof began to glow.
Revealed now by the light, Zsófia saw that the room within was largely unfurnished. Simply a wide open room with some chairs stacked in the corner. Cautiously, she entered. The feeling of disquiet she had felt at the sight of the stairs had grown in her chest to pressing dread.

“Edda, I have a bad feeling about this place.”

“I know, dear. Anir isn’t the most comforting patron even to his own followers, as a Priestess to a god not even part of the pantheon your fear is natural. But you are safe here, as long as you respect the rules of the house.”

“And what are those rules?”

“Nothing unusual. Do not bring violence, respect the other guests. I am sorry dear, that wasn’t meant to carry any veiled meaning.”

Still wary, Zsófia looked about the room. It was maybe ten strides across and roughly square shaped. The utterly unremarkable wooden floor and walls added to the strangeness, especially as the single magical light source didn’t quite reach the corners.

“I’m sorry, but I still don’t understand why we’re here. There’s no sick around for us to treat. This is just an empty room.” Zsófia heard the very slight pleading in her own voice, was she truly that frightened?

“There is a sick person here, my dear.” Edda’s voice carried no emotions, but the moment they left her mouth the ether roared into a tempest.

Terror flooded Zsófia, turning her veins to ice as she hurried to reach out to the ether to defend herself. At the same time, she turned and ran to the door fighting to open it and escape but finding it would not budge.

“Stop!” She cried, her voice dampened as if being swallowed by the shadows that crept. “Please, Edda! Why are you doing this?”

“Quiet child. This will be faster and easier if you do not resist.”

Before Zsófia could answer, Edda hurled her gathered ether. The force of her spell impossibly powerful, Zsófia felt her defences brushed aside as if they were non-existant. Carried away into the dark.

Featured image credit: Brooke Shaden – rapt

Vicissitudes in the Dark Wood (Pt. 4)

Trapped, staring frozen into the bonfire, Rubin felt the presence swelling behind him. Screaming internally at his body to respond, it was as if his spirit was no longer attached to his body. This wasn’t fear that froze him, he’d known that failure enough to recognise it. This was magic, but so subtle and natural that it could have been breathing.
Vibrations shook the air around him. Not the air, he realised, the ether. His spirit shuddered like a leaf before a mounting storm, the proud Weatherford scholar felt very small and powerless. The vibrations grew, unconcerned by Rubin’s terror until they were almost too much to bear. Instinctively he sought to protect himself from the onslaught on his senses, willing his eyes closed and his hands to cover his ears, but whatever form he now held seemed incapable or unwilling to obey.
And then the thundering roar of the ether stopped.
Something is different, was the first thing he noticed, the colours seemed more vibrant. He looked around and was startled to find that he could. Around him the woods stood, exactly as they had before, but in every way alien, like someone had recreated the world from perceptions of it rather than objective reality. Rubin turned slowly on his heel, cautiously taking in the world, searchingfor explanation or reason. Finding no answer he sought the familiar power of his magic, opening his essence to the ether as he’d done countless times before and instead of trickling forth as he was used to this time the magic erupted like wildfire, igniting the very nature of what he was and burning his very soul. The sudden, indescribable rush of power was too much, far too much for Rubin to contain, let alone control. He screamed, thrashing wildly in his torment when a voice pounded inside skull.
“Kneel. Kneel and worship me.”
Somehow through the mind destroying agony, Rubin remained conscious enough to understand and believe the words. Collapsing into a ball on the ground, he grovelled as sincerely as he could through the pain, praying earnestly for release.
And it was granted.
Weeping on the ground, as much from relief as the recently banished pain, Rubin remained motionless where he lay. Every nerve ending felt raw and tender, every sensation felt a thousand, thousand times more intense, such that the light breeze felt like sand paper. Even this, was bliss compared to the memory of before.

Eventually Rubin opened his eyes, it felt like hours later, but time seemed less real than it had. The woods, exactly as they were in reality, not that terrible other place, but he lain upon his bedroll and it was bright like the sunrise.
Slowly he lifted his head, feeling the weight of his body again. It was heavy, he’d never noticed how heavy it had felt simply to be in his body. Looking around he saw the others going about their early morning business. There was no chance that was a dream, he thought, though the evidence may points, it was simply too much to not be real. With a groan he rolled onto an arm and shakily pushed himself off the ground. Heavy footfalls nearby announced Telfor’s approach.
“Take a walk with me Rubin,” the gruff voice scraped itself across the scholars shoulder before boring its way into his ear. Without waiting for an answer, the grey soldier stomped past, moving into the woods. Unwillingly, but not wanting to start a fight just yet, Rubin followed despite his stiff joints and burning skin. Telfor took him deep enough into the wood to be out of earshit before he wheeled upon him.
“What happened during your watch?”
“I don’t know,” Rubin replied honestly, something about the way the question was asked made him want to lie, “Something happened. It was… horrible.”
Telfor raised a querying eyebrow, his grey, semi-beastial features made him less expressionate than most but this one was obvious. It was disbelief. That brought Rubin back to himself, heat filled his cheeks and he straightened his posture.
“It’s the truth. Some magic took me, and did something that I cannot explain yet. It must have been the work of that witch you made us bring along.”
“Careful, Rubin,” Telfor’s voice was low and quiet, not threatening, but also not without steel, “That’s a serious accusation considering you just told me you don’t know what happened.”
It was true, a malediction like he’d just described was a death sentence. His rational mind understood this, and told him to drop it, but he couldn’t. Something inside him snapped. Anger and frustration refused be contained and before he realised it, it was flowing out of him.
“No. No I refuse. I will not. I have been ignored, assaulted, and overriden. I am not one of your soldiers, Telfor. I am a Journeyman of the Weatherford University. I was entrusted to your band to bring a Necromancer to justice, and now she travels under our protection with promises of secrecy. A crime, punishable by death. I have had enough of your Leadership, on this matter. We have failed to report the undead we encountered in  timely fashion. Verumaleus is dead. And The Necromancer has maledicted me. This is where I draw the line, either you arrest her. Or I’m leaving.”
After the words were out, he already regretted them. He somehow felt wearier than he had before saying them. But unwilling to back down, he set his gaze and waited for a response. The pair stood staring at one another in silence for a time, until eventually Telfor bowed his head.
“Alright, Rubin. I’m listening, tell me exactly what happened. I believe you.”

Welcome back,
Third consecutive upload, and this one wasn’t completed the night it was due. Go me.
I’m quite pleased with this one, it’s probably fairly obvious how much I enjoy cosmic horror, I have a deep appreciation for the unfeeling, incomprehensible, things that awe and terrify us. Whether that concept comes to you through the vastness of space, the search for meaning or purpose, or something else, I find that style very powerful.
And as a fairly novice writer who enjoys a thing, I probably overuse said thing. I expect the story will become more grounded by the time the party arrives in the city. The series is called Blood and Lies after all, and we’ve had surprisingly little of both.
In news about my life; writing off the blog has gone slowly, and to my shame I haven’t read anything new, but I’m continuing to lose weight down 3kg now, and finally I’m very excited to run the first game of new Vampire: The Requiem next sunday.
My song for this installment: Baying of the Hounds – Opeth
Featured art: Shadow Demon by Keith 

Hope you enjoy it,

Vicissitudes in the Dark Wood (Pt. 3)

The frigid early morning chill eventually warmed as the party crashed through the foliage. The deep mysterious greens had brightened during the time they’d been resting in the village, orange and yellow leaves shone brightly in the noon day light.
“It feels like time hasn’t passed since we entered this forest,” Pan thought out loud, feeling the heat beneath his warm clothes despite the mild temperature.
“The forrest is a fairy kingdom,” Zsófia offered, “Their magic keeps the forrest green all year round.”
A scoff from Rubin interrupts the priestesses explanation, “Nonsese. Fairies or no, these trees will keep their colour all year round. It has no more to do with fairy magic than our slaying that monster had to do with your pagan gods protection.”
To her credit, Zsófia bit back whatever argument she thought of and continued the walk in silence. It was apparent that she was less conditioned to the pace Vahkragg set, and despite the large man secretly steadying his pace for her, she was sweating and breathing heavily. Rubin had noticed, but elected to remain silent making smug eye contact with Telfor at any opportunity. The scholar’s attitude was wearing on the veteran’s patience, who had begun to consider the merits of ordering Rubin to carry Zsófia’s pack as well as his own when Vahkragg silently halted to group and stealthily lowered himself, gesturing for those behind him to do the same.
As quietly as possible, Telfor moved up to where Vahkragg knelt motionless and peered through the overgrowth in the same direction. Ahead, all he saw was more trees, like the countless hundreds they’d passed already. Tall, dark green to almost seem black, damp, and covered in smaller plantlife.
“What did you see?”
“Not sure, might have been nothing.”
If there was one thing Vahkragg could have said to make Telfor feel wary, that was it. The nomad was the best outdoorsman he’d every travelled with, and at the same time the most bluntly understated speaker. More than either of those things, the giant had exceptional instincts. If there was something stalking them that Vahkragg wasn’t confident he’d noticed it, it was dangerous.
“What do you think?”
Silence hung delicately for minutes as Vahkragg considered, eventually rising slowly and signalling to the others they were moving again, “Arms reach.”
Nodding as the giant started moving, Telfor dropped back to hurry the stragglers into a tighter group. This caution further slowed the groups progress, and before long it was obvious that they were rapidly losing the sun and they weren’t escaping the forest before then. As the light began to fade, Zsófia’s voice, weak from exhaustion cut through the dreadful quiet, “We have to stop, if we keep going we won’t be protected by the time they come.”
The bounty hunters paused, exchanging uncertain glances in the face of this sudden exclamation. Not missing the looks of bewilderment, Zsófia answers the look with horrified disbelief, “You don’t know about the Fae? But that’s impossible, you couldn’t have made it to the village without passing through their domain!”
The terror in her voice immediately dispelled any uncertainty as to her meaning, the mood was immediately tense in the face of an uncertain challenge. Telfor approached the forest-dweller, resting a large palm on her slight shoulder comfortingly and asked, “What are you talking about girl, take a breath and explain it calmly so we can understand you.”
“The Forest is a Faerie kingdom, they slumber during the day but at night they come and hunt interlopers without adequate protections.”
“They didn’t trouble us when we were wandering lost, fleeing from the undead. Perhaps they have no interest in you.”
“No, that’s not it. They hate dead things, they’re filled with life and the undead repulse them. If you were being chased a horde, their stench would have driven off the fae for miles around. I’m an idiot for not realising that, I thought your crusader must have warded you all from them.
“We have no time to waste,” she contiued, her initial panic quickly being replaced by single minded efficiency as she analysed each of them and their equipment against some mental checklist, “We are fortunate, you seem to have almost perfectly equipped yourselves despite your ignorance.”
A tick of annoyance from Rubin is ignored as Zsófia hurriedly instructs the group to make camp, demanding fire and fuel enough to burn bright until dawn.
Within the hour the camp is made. Light and heat from the fire enough to be uncomfortable to stay by, while each of the groups weapons is carried free from their sheathes. Rubin had flatly refused to wear his clothes inside out, halting Zsófia’s mounting protective wards in their tracks when Telfor had sided with the scholar at this point. The fire, bare steel and iron, and Pan’s revenant aura would have to be enough to ward off any faeries the night had to offer. After praying for protection from the Horned God, Zsófia seemed content they would be safe and so the party turned in for the night with Rubin volunteering for first watch.
Wrapped in blankets to ward the biting cold that dug into whatever part of his body that wasn’t directly facing the fire, Rubin stared into the fire as he unfolded the many thoughts he’d kept to himself throughout the day. Frustration at Zsófia’s presence, as well as a dark mixture of anxious uncertainty regarding Oliver, if he’d doomed the hermit unwittingly to a faerie capture or if he’d made it safely to Verwich. With everything balanced on the edge of the knife and so many variables he couldn’t have prepared for, the scholar almost didn’t notice through his thoughts the sound of something behind him. Rather than spinning around and raising his arms to draw upon his magic, like he intended, an languid, nightmarish weight swallowed him and transformed his body’s motions to be agonisingly slow. The dreamlike weight on his chest was too heavy for him to scream, so when his eyes met the horned beast that dwarfed the anathema while somehow still managing to fit entirely within his view, all he could do was stare helplessly. Drowning under the power that saturated the air.

Hello everyone,
Today’s my second regular upload in a row lets see how long I can keep this rolling. I’ve been finding a lot of creative outlets lately, started a D&D game with my housemates and friends, and a will be starting a Vampire: The Requiem game on the 7th. Perhaps this new game will inspire me delve into Urban Fantasy, or Horror again after this series.
I’ve been reading a lot more, though still not as much as I should. My most recent finished read was The Temptation of Dragons (Penny White #1) by Chrys Cymri which I’d highly recommend to anyone who enjoys contemporary fantasy, british pop culture and humour. Considering a 5/5 to be something lie Neverwhere I gave this book a 3/5, I felt it was an easy to read fun story which was hard to put down. And it’s free on Kindle unlimited and only $1.29 aud for ebook, so the price is right.
My song for this series: Pagan Revolution by Elvenking

Hope you enjoy it,

P.S. Featured art is Gwent Illustration: Fiend by Marek Madej

Vicissitudes in the Dark Wood (Pt. 2)

The cottage loomed over them. Like a living thing it cast a presence upon like shadows that surrounded them. Filled with something more inimical than darkness, it pooled beneath their feet growing as if sought to consume them whole. Acutely aware of the unnatural sensation, Pan felt the cold as surely as any of his companions but only he recognised the faint taste that permeated the air before transorming to mist on their breath. It reminded him of home.
Striding purposefully forward, Telfor’s heavy boot crashed through the overgrown path and broke the silence few of them realised they’d been observing. In the time it took for the slower members of the group to recover and follow, he was baisically at the door. From where he stood near the back of the group, Pan could make out Rubin whispering a prayer behind him. Watching Telfor’s fist as it brought his knuckled down on the door, Rubin’s sudden outward display of piety seemed only sensible.
From within the sound of movement carried. The noise held colour, when all around them felt black. Natural like nothing else there felt, it lifted a weight that had settled in their chests.
The door opened and Zsófia’s greyish-green face greeted them with a wide smile, “Come in, all of you. Please.”
Inside the cottage bore none of the malevolant foreboding that had characterised the clearing outside the familiar taste, however, Pan noted seemed stronger though. In addition the style of the building was distinct from those of the village. Curious, as Zsófia led them through a hall to what must have been her sitting room, Pan’s searching eyes noticed the concealed basement entrance behind a curtain which implied further room below ground. Basements were common in the kingdom, but he had seen none within the village itself. Finally he noted the walls were not made from wood, but stone. Particularly odd for a village isolated by the forest.
“Thank you for agreeing to come see me before you left,” Zsófia’s quiet voice spoke over the crackling fireplace where they had gathered around, Vahkragg gratefully warming his hands.
“It was nothing,” Telfor answered, “How can we be of service?”
Bashfully shifting her gaze to the flame, Zsófia seemed to hesitate before she answered, “I have a request for you all, I believe it would be of benefity to all of us.”
Pausing slightly longer than was normal, Telfor had opened his mouth to prompt her when she finally got the rest out, “Please let me come with you. With the death of your friend, you are without a representative of the gods and I have never seen the world beyond the forest!”
The force of her plea came as a shock, left speechless Telfor was blindsided once more by the answer that came from behind him.
“Absolutely not.” Rubin’s hands were clenched in tight fists by his side, but his face was of impassive determination, “We have suffered your continued freedom due to the supposed debt owed for your service in reviving our companions, but this is too much. You are a necromancer, and a heretic. Even if we agreed to take you, you would be arrested the moment you entered the kingdom. It is impossible.”
Face flushing with colour, Zsófia’s cheeks filled with a darker green, her body balling with frustration to mirror Rubin’s own, “I have told you, I am not a necromancer. The Wild God works through me, his divinity is as true as Atyx or any of the Pantheon worshipped in the kingdom. I am no more necromancer than your friend was.”
“Alright, that’s enough your two.” Telfor interrupts, rubbing his head wearily, “Zsófia, doesn’t the village need your ministrations to keep your god civil?”
“Not until the solstice. I have a full turn of the seasons before the next ceremony I’m required for. I’m not merely asking out of fancy, winter is coming and there are things the village needs that we can’t get here. I’ve already spoken with the elders, they’ve agreed that this is the best option, the wild god’s creatures won’t attack me and I’ll hire people to escort me and the goods back to the village. And as to your friend’s objection, I shan’t call upon the wild god within the kingdom, no-one will have any reason to suspect me of any crime.”
Telfor’s rough fingers stroke the stubble that lined his chin. Pan wondered what thoughts were going through the veteran’s head, seemingly a simple man, Telfor had proven time and again to make decisions with deeper consideration than the quick witted scout could have. Glancing back at Rubin, the scholar’s cheeks were pools of vibrant bloody red, his prejudices ran deep, it would be difficult to picture him going along with any decision to bring Zsófia along.
“Alright,” Telfor answered, to a spluttering wordless exclamation from Rubin. Pre-empting the scholar’s objection, the veteran continued, “You can travel with us as far as the capital. Understand that you’re putting me in a difficult and dangerous position with your requestion so for as long as you travel with us the wild god stays here unless it’s a matter of life and death. Rubin, I recognise your distaste for Zsófia’s faith and it’s practices, as such I’m giving you the task of watching her. If you have reason to suspect she’ll bring us trouble, you tell me and we’ll send her home. Satisfied?”
By their experessions, Pan judged that neither of them were in any way close to satisfied, but eventually Rubin inclined his head in a stiff nod. Raising an eyebrow, Pan tried to read the room but other than that lingering taste of home, nothing really stood out. Whatever it was that convinced Telfor to agree, Pan simply had to trust the old soldiers’ instincts for now.
“Good. Are you packed? If not you’ve got five minutes, we’re already behind schedule.”
Despite the gruffness in the words, Zsófia brightened noticibly, and rushed into the hall emerging shortly after with a small pack that seemed much larger upon her small frame, “You won’t regret this, I promise.”

Part two, two weeks late unfortunately, my apologies. I’m not the best at forming positive habits it seems, but I’ve been doing pretty well at keeping up with my goals for eating better, exercising and writing more, so hopefully I’ll keep improving as the year progresses.
I’ve been making progress on my novel, still early days but it’s better than the cycle of write something, delete more, that I’ve had so far. Working title “Outcast”, the story shares a universe with many of the stories I upload on this side under the category “The Chrysalis” if you’re curious. It’s a fantasy coming of age story, with some influence from science fiction.

Hope you enjoy it,

P.S. Featured Art Herne the Hunter by Angela Jayne Barnett

Blood and Lies (Recap)

The Blood and Lies series will be returning, and concluding in the new year. As such I’ve written a quick summary of the first 20 parts as a refresher for those who read it, or as an introductory resource for those who haven’t.

When we left them the band of bounty hunters were busy escorting their quarry, a sorcerer who calls himself Oliver back to the Capital for trial. Accused of necromancy, enchantment and espionage, the judgement seems a foregone conclusions, especially given the undead encountered defending his hidden cave lair.
Driven off course by an unexpected army of undead, they found a village in the woods with no roads, nor that any of them could recall on any map. After some initial uncertainty, the group approached the settlement and earned their welcome by fending off a monster known by the villagers as Anathema. Their victory was won only at great sacrifice, however. Crusader of Atyx, and beloved friend, Verumalleus sacrificed herself for the kill. Even with her sacrifice, the giant Vahkragg and groups leader Telfor, both also succumbed to an affliction carried by the monsters claws.
Rescued by the villagers revealing their secret, a necromancer Zsófia who’s magic draws back the two afflicted from death’s door. In the wake of this, the university trained scholar Rubin seems to betray the group, using his own magic to enslave Oliver to his will, learning the truth of the sorcerer’s noble parentage and that the charges against him are false. Orchestrating an escape behind the guise of attempting to arrest Zsófia for her necromancy, Rubin’s compulsion is set to deliver the sorcerer to unknown allies in Verwich, the second largest city in the kingdom.
His plan comes to fruition sooner than expected, the other bounty hunters intercept the attempt to capture Zsófia, after an explosive tussle the lingering affliction arises in Vahkragg’s causing his body to fails and allowing Oliver to escape while they are unable to pursue.
For the following week the adventurers recover from their lingering injuries, resolve the conflicts between themselves, enjoy a celebration with the villagers as the village hunters return from a successful hunt. Eventually our protagonists are able to continue movie and resolve to return to the capital to report their failed mission as well as the presence of the seemingly unmolested army of the dead within the kingdom’s borders.

Ahead of them lie a number of mysteries and challenges. Who framed Oliver and why? What is Rubin’s secret agenda? How did an army of undead appear within the southern portion of the kingdom?
All this and more will be revealed before the climax, in Blood and Lies.

Hope you enjoy it,

P.S. I’m also going back and fixing part 15 onwards where I apparently forgot that Oliver had escaped and just kept writing him in scenes. *facepalm* Should be done today.

Featured Image found on pinterest, unfortunately I couldn’t find the original source to credit.

Cogs of War

Sighing heavily, Andela’s head slumps towards her desk before hanging defeated, propped up by her arm. Pushing her glasses up the bridge her nose to rub her eyes, the strain of the dim lighting threatening to transform into a headache. The sun had been down for hours and judging from her windows view of the moon, it was late.
The draft resolution lay unfinished, silently taunting her. How long had she been stuck at this point. Too long, that much was certain. Usually she’d stop for the night, start again after some sleep, but unfortunately she couldn’t afford that luxury any longer, the deadline was tomorrow.

Five minutes, she grants herself silently, Then I need to get this done. Leaning back into her less than luxurious seat, she stares out the window at the moon. Not quite a full moon, she realises, Was it a full moon when I first agreed to this take this nightmare of a job? She marvels at how naive she’d been to think that a desk job would be less tiring than field work. I’ll take my sword over this any day, at least there’s honour among soldiers.
Turning away from the moon to face the sword hanging on the wall behind her desk, Andela rises from her seat, feeling the weight of the hours behind the desk weighing heavier than her soldiers kit ever had. Stretching out whatever tension she could, she clicks her tongue then speaks to the sword, “What would you say if you could see me now I wonder, sir

“I’ve been wondering that for a while now,” crossing her arms across her waist as she leans on the desk, “This was your genius idea after all. Would you be proud of me, fighting the war from the rear?

“How many years has it been? And still no end in sight. You underestimated the opposition we faced, either that or you overestimated what I’d be able to do about it.

“The empire is crumbling all around us, and no-one’s willing to look out the window and face it. Even the soldiers on the ground keep sending rosy stories describing how the most recent lost garrison or uprising is well under control, or playing right into our hands somehow.
There’s absolutely no chance the senate approves the changes we need to hold the land we’ve already got. As far as they’re concerned I’m a glorified tax collector, the pompous bloated swine. If I was out there I could actually have some impact, or at least I wouldn’t have to spend every waking moment banging my head against this wall.”

Staring impassively at the sword, receiving no response, Andela recognises the tension in her muscles and exhaling slowly forces herself to relax. Stupid.
Turning back towards her desk, she spies Zlatan stood in the doorway of her office. Years of practice allows her annoyance to manifest as a polite impassivity. His smile, usually described as charming always felt vaguely sinister to her. She remains standing as he speaks, “May I come in?”

Wordlessly, Andela gestures to the seat across her desk, sitting only as he does. Shutting the door behind himself, she always felt guarded around him, not because he was particularly imposing. He didn’t have the intimidating presence of a brute or a killer, after all.
He was perhaps half a head shorter than her, undeniably attractive, but more beautiful than handsome. She wasn’t intimidated by attractive men, and besides he was definitely not her type. He was rich, and he wore that wealth plainly how he presented himself, but money didn’t frighten her either.
Whatever it was in the man that made her uncomfortable, she couldn’t place it, but it was there.

“I apologise for eavesdropping, General. I overheard you as I was leaving, say that you didn’t believe the senate would approve something vital to the empire’s stability, is that correct?”

Seeing no reason to lie here, Andela inclines her head in affirmation.

“I see,” he leans forward across the desk, “I suspect you might be right. The Senate was originally created to give all of The People the chance to be represented, even the common folk. Unfortunately the Empire has become too centralised, too stagnant.
I want to do something about that.

“You are a good soldier, General. I’ve spoken to some of the soldiers who served under you, and the good majority of them speak very highly of you. I think you are someone who is the kind of person you want to have as a friend.
I like to think that I might be the same kind of person for you, may I see your resolution?”

Thousand Eyes of Heaven, what a snake. Her first reaction. Her hand on the resolution resists her decision to slide it across the desk towards him, her instincts reacting as if she had stuck her hand into a vipers nest.
Time seems to slow as the page crosses the distance between them, rushing back to full speed as Zlatan takes the page and reads it.

His eyes scan rapidly across the page before lifting over it to face Andela, “You’re asking for a lot here, is so much truly necessary?”

“This would be enough to stem the bleeding,” she answers, taking back the page, “Our funding has been stagnant for years. Numerous positions have been left vacant because they’re seen as unnecessary. Right now, we’re losing ground, if this was to pass we could probably stop the backward momentum. Retaking what’s been lost would be far more costly.”

Zlatan is silent, watching her like he expected her to continue. Then slowly, seemingly cautiously he asks, “And that is the course of action you would take?”

She shrugs, his caution making her suspicious, “I’m a soldier, my role in the senate is to advise in matters of the military. For a military solution, I would spend everything that was necessary for a decisive resolution immediately, rather than bleed for a century then die.”

“And if you were advising beyond a solely military solution?”

Raising an eyebrow, “The uprisings come from the burden of taxes and the sense of separation from the Stella. The Empire’s golden age came out of the time the Empire built, instead of simply taking.”

Smile drawn widely across his face, Zlatan nods and rises to his feet, “I’m glad the army is in the hands of those who know history. I appreciate you sparing the time to share your thoughts, I won’t take up any more of your time. Best of luck with your resolution tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll speak again soon.”

For me, one of my favourite things in stories is when a system exists that is impacted by the actions of innumerable individuals. While I can turn my brain off and enjoy a story where things like massive armies just work. I’m always particularly intrigued when a story has the time to explore the difficulties of politics, bureaucracy and infighting.

Colonel Mustang in the anime Fullmetal Alchemist, is one of my favourite examples of this, as the story itself is high energy with lots of fighting and shouting, the fact the Mustang exists and operates in the background for so long with the goal of becoming the Fuhrer from within. I’m sure there are better examples, but he’s one I enjoyed.

Hope you enjoy it,

Featured Image credit:

Fire in the Heaven’s

Startling Sif from her work a sudden, a blinding flash of light brighter than a thousand noon day suns fill the sky above and all around her. It’s intensity shining even through her closed eyelids for a second then rapidly vanishing as all the light that had escaped was being sucked back into a point beyond the other side of the mountain.
The wind picks up, rushing away from the source like in terror. Chasing after it, a distant terrible roar shakes the ground like thunder, it’s power easily felt in her feet and chest. Rising slowly from beyond Urd, the valley’s northern maintain wall, a gigantic cloud of dust swells inexorably, spreading out in all directions and blotting out the sun. Against the previously tranquil early morning, the deafening sound and drastic change in the environment has an apocalyptic feel.
Mouth hung agape, Sif stares helplessly at the portentous display.

“What on earth?” Sofija’s soft voice comes from behind Sif, still too lost in shock to respond. Squeezing Sofija’s hand as she approaches and takes Sif’s own, she clings to the familiarity of the gesture desperately searching for the strength to look away.

“There was a light,” she answers, raising her hand and directing a finger towards the Urd and his ashen halo, “Then the noise came, and that cloud just keeps growing.”

Pulled away from staring into the cloud by Sofija and drawn into an embrace, Sif is finally able to recognise her body’s reaction. Her breathing is fast and shallow, heart pounding and irrepressible shakes in all of her limbs. She feels faint and pricks of blackness swim in her vision. Inhaling deeply she buries her face in Sofija’s shoulder and releases dry, shuddering sobs.
Dragging her thoughts painfully back into line, eventually finding the strength to stand on her own. Taking the smaller woman’s face between her hands, Sif can see from her pale expression, she is just as frightened and in need of protecting.

“We should get back in side, my love,” Sif says quietly. With a small rapid nod of agreement, Sofija leads them back across the garden to the house.
Within the house, the partially blocked sun is scarcely capable of providing the light to see. Lighting a candle from the smoldering embers of the wood fire stove, the couple seat themselves at the table. The act usually so ordinary, suddenly so strange in the wake of what had happened.

“Sif,” having gripped her hand and tightly squeezed it, Sofija’s tone more in control than it had been outside, “You said there was light, noise, and then the cloud. I’m trying to understand what you mean, but I can’t imagine it.”

“I don’t understand what I saw either,” Sif whispers, unable to find the words that describe the experiences still so fresh in her mind, “It was like lightning, but from behind the mountain, and so bright it filled the entire sky even behind me all at once. Like I fell in a lake made of the sun, then it was all just sucked back into whatever it came from.”

“What it came from?”

“I don’t know, the light just faded and withdrew behind Urd to where it came from, I couldn’t see what,” Sofija’s grip on her hand had tightened, painfully tight, but Sif welcomed it in that moment, “Then the wind kicked up, and the roar came right behind it. Everything shook. Then it was all over, just that cloud growing larger and larger.”

“Agony’s Brother, Sif, do you think it’s the end of the world?”

Sif sobbed unintentionally, the shudder stealing the air from her words. Pulled down to rest on Sofija’s shoulder and be comforted, a deep sense of gratitude bubbles up from within. Going through this without her, she couldn’t imagine it.
Together they sat, holding one another for a good long time. The light continues to fade as the minutes pass, the great smokescreen spreading beyond the horizon can be seen through the window. The sun’s light glows like fire through the haze, giving the sky the appearance of hellfire.
A great weariness begins to overcome Sif, the warmth and protective comfort of Sophija allowing her to feel safe enough to come down from her panic.

“I’m going to head into town, see if anyone there knows what’s going on.”

Sophija’s declaration brings back Sif’s panic back, only able to muster a hollow reflection of the energy she had before her weariness simply grows, filling her with a dread nausea, “Soph, you can’t, we have no idea what’s going on out there!”

“That’s why I have to,” the couple are moving with frenzied intensity, Sophija readying to leave and Sif struggling to stop her, “We have no idea what kind of danger we’re in. We also don’t have any kind of emergency equipment or supplies. I’m not going to just sit here and pray we’ll be alright when I could be doing something more useful.”

They fight, but it ends the same way it always does. Shouting arguments, made up for with a kiss and Sophija leaving for the town. Never able to just sit and wait, it was just her nature, Sif couldn’t blame her for that.
Watching her lover walking along the road towards the town, she simply can’t shake this feeling of something dreadful. Returning to the inside of the house, she pours two glasses of wine, one for herself one for the god. If Sophia couldn’t pray, then she would have to pray for them both.

“Just come back soon, my heart. Do that, and everything will be well again.”

I was reading about politics and war. The subject took my mind to nuclear strikes in history, and the current threat. The image of those old videos, of the light, the shockwave, and the fireball resonated with me. I wanted to have a character (or two) experience that kind of sensation, but in a fantasy setting, so the language and experience would be more indescribable than in our modern world.

I don’t know what the explosion was exactly, or what repercussions will follow. I’ll leave that up to you to imagine.

Hope you enjoy it,

Featured Image Credit:
Kevin Walker

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