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Backwoods (Dark Silver)
Topic: Backwoods (Dark Silver) (Read 117 times)
Backwoods (Dark Silver)
June 26, 2012, 02:32:55 PM »
“He's been here a long time,” Othmar said, “Maybe longer than Gintaras has claimed the crown.” He exchanged a look with the other baron, Anselm. Both their brows were slumping into frowns. It struck Seoc how similar the two looked; each a Sylvic nobleman, each rough-featured, bearded. If it hadn't been that Othmar was blond and Anselm mousy-haired, it might have been hard to tell them apart.
The seven of them sat their horses beneath the cyclopean beech. Beside Anselm and Othmar was the Imperial Colonel Gavril while their peer, the ageing widow-baroness Kirsi, was closer to the tree. Gavril's captains and Seoc the Brethani were hanging back, as befitted their lesser rank.
“Madame, I beg you do not approach. You may injure yourself, and I would not see you come to harm,” Gavril called out, earning a dark look from the baroness. Though Kirsi wore no battle-harness the iron colour of her hair and eyes somehow made her seem just as grim as the armoured men. After a moment, though, she relented and turned her horse to rejoin the others.
There was a long pause as they all regarded the corpse nailed to the tree.
Othmar was wrong. Out here in the middle of the forest, at the mercy of weather and wildlife, the man on the tree would be nothing but bare bones after six months. In a way, Seoc thought, that would have been better than sad rags of half-disintegrated skin draped over a skeleton still held together by leathery tendons.
“How exceedingly unpleasant,” Gavril said eventually, “Perhaps our Sylvic friends might tell us if this is the custom in these parts. Some punishment for a criminal, perhaps?”
The barons shook their heads, “We bury the dead.”
Sabas, the more senior of the Imperial captains, coughed politely to attract his commander's attention.
“My dear Sabas, have you something to share?”
“Sir, I would beg your leave to lead out a patrol.”
“A patrol? The poor wretch has evidently been dead for some time, Captain. Besides, the good Barons' foresters have been scampering about these woods all morning. I rather doubt you'd find anything they've missed.”
As much as Seoc disliked Gavril he was inclined to agree, but Sabas gave the colonel a peculiar look and seemed set to argue.
“Go, then, Sabas! A small patrol, if it please you. No more than five men, eh?”
“Sir. Thank you, sir.” Sabas departed, and presently they heard him calling out to his cavaliers further back in the forest.
“They say Gintaras knows something of sorcery,” Anselm spoke for the first time since they had arrived at the tree.
They did indeed say many such things of the rebel Gintaras, whose remote barony in the far reaches of Sylvaine they had just this morning entered. They marched with more than two thousand fighters to either cow or kill Gintaras, who was rumoured to have strange allies from the wild North, savages who worshipped demons and bestial spirits.
Most of their small army was Sylvic, retainers and levies from the baronies of Othmar, Kirsi and Anselm, but there was a significant body of Severim Imperial cavalry under Gavril, who was nominal leader of the expedition. The remainder were Seoc's Brethanii, barbarian warriors who traditionally worked as mercenaries for the Empire, just as those of the other Five Tribes – Coronii, Dragorii, Angorii and Colgaedii – had done for many decades since they'd stopped warring with the Severim.
“Fuck sorcery,” grated Kirsi, “We have swords.” With that she rode off, leaving Gavril and his remaining captain, Marin, gaping and flustered that a woman, and a noblewoman at that, should speak so roughly. Seoc almost laughed aloud.
“We should press on. There's no reason to delay further, and our scouts should be almost to the head of the valley by now.” If Kirsi had offended Anselm, he didn't let it show. All dour face and rumbling monotone, he remained the very picture of Sylvic nobility.
“Well said, sir, well said. Disturbing as this is,” Gavril waved at the corpse, “it has no bearing on our mission. We must continue.”
“It's a warning,” Seoc spoke up, “or a ward, a curse, something. Someone put the poor bastard up there for a reason, anyhow.”
Anselm nodded slowly, but Gavril gave a great sigh as if to say
I am surrounded by superstitious barbarians.
“Does it scare you, my dear Seoc? I thought you Fivers knew no fear.”
“Aye, we know fear. We master it, though, as one masters a hound, so that what might have caused havoc can instead be put to good use.”
“And just what do you mean by that, eh?”
“Just that we should be wary. We're in our enemy's lands now. Sorcery or no sorcery, we must be on our guard.”
“And you would be the one to guard us? Your concern and bravery are truly admirable. I think it worthy of a reward, in fact.” Gavril's smile was razor-sharp. “You and your warriors will have the honour of entering the next valley first.”
As Seoc rode away he felt no anger. He'd worked for the Severim long enough to expect the arrogant whims that were their orders. What he did feel was fear. He hadn't lied to Gavril, it was indeed a whipped dog, but it still had the will to snarl and snap on occasion. The deep forests of Sylvaine were dank and glowering throughout, but these woods of Gintaras's seemed different; squat and powerful, overripe, hot with menace despite the coolth of early spring. At times there hardly seemed enough air in the narrow vaults between trees.
Seoc heard his name called and turned to see Anselm following him.
“Gintaras's father was an evil brute, and his grandfather is said to have been worse still.” The baron was looking at Seoc hard, as if angry that he couldn't see something in his eyes.
“I've met a lot of evil bastards. None of them were sorcerers.”
“But you said it yourself,” Anselm waved back towards the beech and its grisly adornment, “He curses his borders. Everyone's heard of his Northern allies, everyone speaks of their devilry. They must be powerful, for the man has no friends in Sylvaine. He must think his witchcraft unstoppable to risk rebellion alone.”
“Maybe he's mad. Maybe he's just stupid.”
Anselm touched the hammer amulet that hung at his neck, the holy symbol of Thrag. “You don't believe your own words. You feel the shadow of this place just as I do. My warriors feel it too. They hear things in the forest at night, unquiet things.”
“Master your fear, Baron. We have a mission here,” Seoc patted his sword, “One that requires us to put our faith in these, not the God.”
“What are swords – what are we – but the God's instruments?”
“This one, at least, is
instrument. My father made it for me. Are you trying to tell me I am the God?” Seoc smiled.
“Thrag is the God.”
“He is at that, I suppose; him and all the rest. Regardless, we must make flint of our hearts. In a few hours I shall walk into the next valley, and I shall take this sword to anyone or anything that seeks to stop me.”
“May the Skyhammer preserve you,” mumbled Anselm, and rode away between the thickset trees.
Out of Character
This is it so far... I may post more as I write it, or I may wait now until it's more-or-less complete... whatever complete means
Last Edit: June 26, 2012, 02:38:43 PM by Kindling
I shall make a book unlike any you have seen. A book of wonders... A book of the Hakote, and you shall read it and see it and still you shall not believe what I have done!
In its infancy the world was beset by demons. Their pettiest whims were like whips that lashed at humanity, at nature itself. For many centuries they have been gone; defeated, trapped, banished. Humankind has used this time to grow fat and complacent, to swaddle itself in the blankets of civilisation.
Now, thanks to the rash and ignorant actions of a few foolhardy adventurers, the demons are starting to regain their power, and the many-faceted eyes of the Beyond are turning in the direction of this world once more.
The harbingers of the second demoniac onslaught are already at large in the world, and humankind's only hope may be the people of the wild North who never forgot the demons, never called them legend or fairytale.
The mighty-thewed warriors, cunning tricksters and gnarled wise-folk of the barbarian lands shudder as an ill wind blows, and prepare themselves for the bloodletting to come.
An introduction to Demons
An introduction to witches
An introduction to the Grimdowns
An introduction to Old Lacedon
An introduction to the peoples of the South
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