Storms over Kelerak, Part I - Page 4 - Myth-Weavers

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Storms over Kelerak, Part I

   
Sweet! The barons are making it into the story. And the growing rabies is giving me the shivers.

Thanks on both counts. Although I could hardly have a story in Kelerak without its multitudinous political machinations playing at least some part. Speaking of which, I noticed an interesting confluence of geography in the north-easternmost corner of the country which I intend to make ample use of. Not necessarily subtly, but I figure it's as good a time as any to get some of my clumsy allegories out of my writing system...

Though you won't be seeing any of that until Part II when the team gets to head up there. I'm just throwing it out there now as a tease.

Can’t wait to see what it is.

As he had foreseen them do, the half-elf's impassioned words moved him. The foreknowledge of this in no way reduced the strength of the long-dormant feelings they had awoken in him, as had ever been the case in his long and tortured life. For the longest time, Tarsus had enjoyed the bliss of a shattered mind, peering only occasionally from behind his veil of madness. With each new horror, or an old one in disguise, he would retreat into insanity again until lured, often so very falsely, by a hint of virtue.

Tarsus had his back to the quartet, yet watched them nonetheless. The eyes of his flesh were sealed, but the eyes of his soul could never be closed - foreknowledge of every failed attempt to blind them had also done nothing to blunt his youthful desperation, and increasingly bloody methods - and now his prophetic gaze was fixed utterly upon the four friends.

Close to a century had passed since his birth. In all that time, only twice previously had he encountered any with an aura of destiny so turbulent as to blind his foresight to all else bar them. The first had been Dralin Ironshield, whose unrelenting quest to reclaim the long-lost dwarfhold of Liferock was yet decades in his future, and whose ultimate triumph or failure was shrouded even from Tarsus' sight. The second had been Tarrosh, a Farlandish oluk who would have been wholly unremarkable had she not loved another enough to abandon the armies of the Lord of Wrath for him, and in time raise their son to become the infamous Tamarrik the Reaver.

Of all the gods, only Janora, the Lady of Fate, was ever graced with his prayers. Destiny was inexorable, he had learned, as mighty as a raging torrent as compared to a leaf. The foolish might try to dam or divert the flow, only to find that their destiny could not be so easily averted, and merely took the path of least resistance to course ever onward, dragging the presumptuous to their fate.

Yet now he waited, as foolish and as presumptuous as any he had ever known, to renew his defiance against the undeniable. Tarsus had seen this inevitability, of course, within moments of the four travellers seeking shelter in the same cave as he, and knew the outcome. His laughter, so maddening to them, was but a symptom of knowing he was doomed to fail here as well, but helpless to avoid it.

The moment approached. He was surprised to feel calmer than he had any right to be, and could not help but laugh, for naturally he already knew both of his surprise and his calm. The moment arrived. He opened his mouth to speak the words that would fail to divert the course of fate's river.

And then, drawn by his inhalation, a stray wisp of ash slipped into his nostrils. Unluckily, Tarsus sneezed with enough force to crack his forehead against his staff. The visions that ruled him disappeared into a mental storm, shattered by the thunder of howling wolves and splintered by the lightning of flashing teeth. His inner eyes closed against this tempest and blindness within and without fell over the shocked oracle.

"She comes," he whispered to himself in understanding. "The blood of Myrkhegnan has spilled itself once more. So Niklaus at least yet lives. Let it be no other also."

So great! Again, I really love how you make such rich use of the lore. It’s always fun to see something from the World worked in so seamlessly.

I think I actually made myself a little sad writing this. I'm starting to understand those authors who say "I don't come up with this stuff, I just write it all down". This tragedy feels more like something that was revealed to me by an outside source, rather than something I invented. It's a weird feeling.

>>>>>>>>>>



SECOND INTERLUDE

c.8500 ER, Sky-Altar of the Midnight Sun, Balathil Mountains

The ground shook under the pounding of many feet, the air hummed with the cries of many throats. The tribe were dancing their dances, and singing their songs, and loving their lovers, all to placate the invisible spirits of the world that might wish them harm, and to honour their ancestors who protected them from evil. In this place, where once they had witnessed a great and terrible omen, they danced and they sang and they loved freely.

Though at the heart of their number, one stood apart from the rest, as his firstborn fathers and mothers had before him. He was the Myrkhegnan, the Champion of the Dark, whose newborn eyes had been turned to the sun that they might never see a lesser beauty again.

In his arms, the squalling infant reached blindly out for comfort, as he had once done. It was a female, which boded well, for some said there had been too few of these as Myrkhegnan of late, and the ancestor mothers were becoming angered and malicious by the lack of respect. He was not sure, but had bidden the tribe to come here again when his child was born, that they might be shown the light where it all began, and perhaps then end the anger of the spirits. His wives had argued, as was their way, annoying him such that he had left behind all but his favourite and most obedient, and soon a child was growing in her belly.

Hunger and sickness tormented the tribe. They had scarcely the strength to climb the mountains to reach the sacred ground, but they did so at his command. He had not spoken to them of the whispers in his dreams, for it was not theirs to know such things, but the messages troubled him. Did the ancestor mothers truly have such spite in their hearts over the few female Myrkhegnan that they were acting as cruelly as the evil spirits they ought to fight? He wondered, and doubted, but more and more became sure this was the way of things. As his surety grew, so did the whispers in his dreams.

Around him, the tribe's worship reached its crescendo. The spirits would enjoy the display, of course, but eventually grow bored and send more evil to torment the tribe. It was a grim duty, to be Myrkhegnan, to be responsible for interpreting the omens and portents, and guiding the tribe away from those things that would anger the spirits and bring down suffering.

And yet, those dreams were unlike any others. He stood alone in emptiness, atop these mountains, with the sun turned black overhead. He could see with the eyes of his body, and knew not how, and figures would approach from all around, never more than one appearing at a time. They looked different from each other in every way, but somehow they were the same.

No wisdom had been passed to him about such dreams, so that meant they were new. They whispered secrets that could not be true, but he still thought of what had been said to him. More and more, he found himself understanding that he had been mistaken, as had his fathers and mothers before him. His thoughts whirled faster and faster.

Did not the spirits continue to send evil down onto the tribe, despite the dances and despite the songs meant to avert harm? And did not the wisdom and power of a Myrkhegnan come from the spirit world, from the ancestors, who now seem as cruel as the rest? So might not the spirits twist a Myrkhegnan into advising the tribe falsely, that they might continue to enjoy the spectacle of their ignorant playthings? Yet surely not all were so malicious, surely at least some of the honour and dutifulness of the past Myrkhegnan must remain?

Startled, joyful, terrified cries from about him brought his thoughts back to the world of flesh. He turned his face to the sky, feeling the warmth of the sun. Then he felt a coldness pass over it, and could hear the tribe babble about the sudden darkness that had fallen, though nightfall ought yet be further away than the dawn.

The Myrkhegnan thought over everything carefully. This was a grand omen, a sign doubtless the same as had birthed the very first Myrkhegnan. In fact, it could only be a sign from those revered ancestors. Though deceived, they must have kept their sense of duty to the tribe, and sent him this message in dreams, and now here with the darkening of the sun. To protect the tribe from the spirits, the line of the Myrkhegnan must end.

He smiled at this revelation. He continued to smile as his knife, knapped from the very finest flint, tasted the blood of his daughter, and his wife by his side. He was still smiling as the tribe seized him, roaring and shrieking at the atrocity, and tore him apart as if they were wolves and he a deer. As he died, the soft laughter of a woman echoed in his head.

*****

c.5800 FR, Murrhagen Heights, Stonewall Mountains

Freki Hildesdottir hated this stupid place on sight. She was of the ancient Olfsblod, and belonged in the Wolf Dens far to the north of here. Her parents had insisted, however, as had theirs before them, going back to a time before Anaria had been settled by any human peoples, even the noble Wolf Tribe. It probably had something to do with their earliest ancestors, who were said to have come from this region, but her opinion was 'Who cares? Who cares that matters?'

And for what impossibly important reason had she been forced to trudge nearly all the way through the ruins of Lorindon to reach this uninspiring plateau? To watch an eclipse, of all things, as though this was somehow relevant to anything! What made this one so special anyway? It was just her luck to be the oldest and have to make this stupid pilgrimage. She would much rather be out hunting, perhaps with Asvald.

A brief smile broke through her disgusted expression. Perhaps she meant hunting for Asvald. He would be quite the prize, especially since so few others knew it. Hodolf was stronger and faster, and Grimvar a better singer and dancer, and by any measure Erikur was more attractive...but Asvald could look at her eyes, not just her breasts or her hips (though she certainly did not mind the weight of his stare on them), and would never complain about a job that needed doing, and always offered to help anyone who seemed to need it.

And there was the incredibly cute way he blushed the colour of his boyish beard whenever she offered to really show him how to polish his spear. Freki doubted he had any clearer idea of what that meant than she did, but both understood it was 'not a proper thing to say' and possibly had something to do with marriage.

Not that either of their families would agree to that. She was already promised, as tribute in all but name, to the bloated warlord Leif of the Bear Tribe - whose sons, even she knew, were far more responsible for his victories in battle than ever he could be - and Asvar himself was being eyed up by the local druids as a potential ranger.

Her good mood spoiled and, sulking like a child far younger than her fifteen years, she threw herself down to wait for the stupid eclipse to be over. Instantly she bit back a cry of pain and looked at her hand. A large shard of flint, very out of place in this particular part of the mountains and strangely marked with dark streaks, had cut into her palm as she leaned on it. Freki glared at the shard and kicked it away.

When she looked back up, a staggeringly beautiful woman was standing only a few feet away, garbed in a faint golden haze and ethereal silks that left just enough to the imagination, watching her with several kinds of interest. Freki's breath caught in her throat and not wholly from surprise, but she forced herself to stand and meet the woman's brilliant emerald eyes with no sign of fear.

"Who are you?" she demanded, intent on putting the stranger on the defensive.

"I have as many names as there are languages, sweetness," the otherworldly woman replied with a knowing smile that quickened Freki's pulse. "Maughaeran to the swan-lovers of Belendale, Kihirrel to the sturdy dwarves of Mithaud. Lashannar was my name in long-dead Rothnog. Hlarthaquel do the gnomes call me, and She Who Dances is how they remember me in Farland. The enthusiastic sons of Keler knew me as Lilith. But for you, I will go by Eilithu."

"Eilithu?" Freki rolled the word around hesitantly, feeling the sound it made, unfamiliar yet exotically pleasing. She felt her mind consider going places she had not previously considered, and found she did not want to push the thoughts aside. The woman's eyes were not green, she saw now, nor even human, but that did not matter. Their infinite blackness pushed aside Freki's defences and plunged deep into her, twisting and boring through the most secret recesses of her being - a violation of indescribable ecstasy that Freki wished would never end.

"Indeed," said the succubus, shedding the rest of her human disguise and drawing the Anarian into her embrace. "Now, tell me all about your dear Asvar and I will tell you...oh, so very many things. I owe you so very much, after all. My dearest, my precious, my new Champion of the Dark, whose blood at last let me into this world once more. I wonder...do your lips taste so sweet as your veins? I will sample both."

As the succubus bent her head, Freki cried out, the pain and pleasure mingling and becoming indistinguishable.

*****

7793 FR, Lostein, Anaria

Niklaus belonged to the Elk Tribe, and she to the Wolf, but Asta loved him nonetheless. One day they would wed, and build their own lodge, and have many fine children and hounds playing by the hearth. How many times had she argued bitterly with her father over this, and fled weeping with rage to her rooms?

"He is not for you and you are not for the likes of him," her father would say, his anger all the fiercer for his soft speech. "You are a wolf girl, and are meant for better men than an elf-shot whelp. You are daughter of a jarl and will one day rule your people from Hildolfar itself. Your marriage must be one to a man who is your equal, and whose family is our equal. Let Niklaus seek his wife in his books, and let his family continue to wither as an oak choked by ivy."

But then later he would come to her, and hold her tightly, and kiss her upon the nose as he had when she was a little girl, and she would remember how much he loved her. Asta could not bear the future he wanted for her, though, as wondrous as he made it sound, for it was a future without Niklaus at her side.

On her thirteenth birthday, a merchant caravan arrived with luxuries from Kelerak, one of the few permitted to enter Anaria each year - though others always tried, greedy and hopeful, and usually short-lived thereafter - and in a rare moment of being unobserved, she had managed to exchange a few words with the traders. They had spoken fondly of their wives and husbands back home, whom they had chosen for themselves and not because their families had wished the union.

Asta knew immediately what she must do. That very night, she fled her family's longhouse, mercilessly bullying two of her handmaidens into taking her to the territory border between the Wolf and Elk tribes. A commoner would have been caught long before reaching her destination, but Asta was no commoner. She was a wolf girl! She could ride hard and ride well, and the jarl's horses were among the finest in all the stables.

By dawn, she had reached Samsen. By noon, she was being ferried across the Elk Lake to Kattenholt, where one of Niklaus' uncles lived. The old man was an elf-shot fool like his nephew, chattering about places and persons of no meaning to Asta, all of which he had learned about from books and scrolls, but he was sympathetic to their love and was almost wolf-cunning, despite everything else - and being of the Elk, besides!

When her father finally caught up with her, Asta and Niklaus had already married. Violence had been threatened, but her new family proved itself far less weak, and vastly larger, than it had previously been thought. Indeed, with first cousins alone they could field nearly five times the warriors (though admittedly not so well-equipped or skilled) as could her father, and combined had influence enough to equal the jarl in council, or even outmatch him if they called in favours owed from the Bear and Seal Tribes, which Niklaus had personally assured Asta's father would happen if the matter was pressed. For some years thereafter, and in spite of the rift between her and her father, life had been practically idyllic for Asta.

Then she had found out the source of her new family's fecundity and influence. Niklaus, as with most of his relatives and their allies across all the tribes, was not devoted to the totem spirits of the Anarians, but instead venerated the southern god Vornoth and the dread Lords of Sin that had conquered most of the world. Niklaus himself was proving to be one of the most capable demoniacs the family had produced for generations, and had progressed so far in his unholy studies as to begin communing with a patron entity from some Hell or another.

Even so, his love for Asta was unfeigned, and when Asta walked in on one such session, it had been by his design, that she might join him in his perverse faith. She had tried to flee, of course, only to be bound and dragged back to him by unseen hands, again and again and again.

Finally, Niklaus advanced far enough to complete a summoning ritual and, still seeking to convince Asta as to the rightness of his ways, used her blood as one of its components to attract a demon more closely magically aligned to her. The succubus that appeared had seemed especially delighted, even amused by the turn of events, but Asta proved to be have a stronger will than her long-dead ancestor Freki.

"You want to return to your wolf pack, my love, so go and do so," Niklaus had finally said, saddened and enraged at the same time. "Eilithu, as we agreed. You want her as badly as I do, but ordinarily you have more time than we. That will change too, yes? Good. So be it."

And Asta was set free. Her resilient will was not so strong as to survive the transformation intact, but enough was left to make the punishment less terrible than it would otherwise have been. A dream almost, not quite, but nearly. A wolf dream, for a wolf girl.

Wow. This one was extremely well written. And it’s funny, when the great Tolkien wrote LoTR, he said it was as if he was chronicling something that had already happened, not making stuff up.

May I suggest the succubus’ elven name be “Maughaeran” which means “evil dancer” or “Morthasarn” which means “dark lover”?

http://farlandworld.com/elven.html

Btw have you read the Dresden Files? Lashiel?








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