On the evening after the night of the full moon, the messenger who had been sent to find help approached the Third Village with a small force from one of the monarchs of a nearby land. They encountered the eerie sight of dead bodies on the road before they reached the village. The skin of each body was drained of all color and pocked with lesions, the limbs bent unnaturally, and each face was frozen in anguish.
When the force of soldiers reached the village and dismounted, they were greeted by a most awesome and terrible sight. The dead lay everywhere. On the streets, at the thresholds of homes, by the well. The bodies were gruesomely bloated, pale, and the limbs were constricted in awkward angles and poses. Most were covered in cobwebs. Continue reading
The Northern Star that guides those who are lost from sky to earth to ocean was born of a flower. So was the giant Scorpion, the Herald of Death, who carries the departed past the veil into the afterworld. And so was the Blue Butterfly, the Emblem of Life, who guides newly arrived souls to their earthly anchors. The star, the scorpion, and the butterfly. The three are bound by an ancestor at once humble and extraordinary. It had no name in its short life.
Now it is called Imberflos, the Stormflower. Continue reading
Razim noticed eyes peeking through the gatehouse window as he and Sidregar passed through the unbarred outer gates and into the trough, the space between the lofty inner and outer walls of the royal capitol. In the trough, merchants, travelers, and beggars could camp the night free from harassment by thieves and other harm, before entering the inner gates in the morning. But this night the trough was bare of tents and of all but the most destitute-looking persons. Razim led his brother to the inner gate and noted that they were lined with iron spikes. Strangely, there were no guardsmen on duty. He peeked through the slats of wood.
The gate swung open with a high wail. Razim swapped curious looks with Sidregar. They paced into the city, scanning the streets for an open inn. The streets were empty. The hour was late indeed, but unless the populace was exceptionally well-behaved, Razim would have expected some patrolling guardsmen, a drunk or two staggering through an alley, children sneaking about. The city seemed abandoned, like much of the country surrounding it, yet they had heard no news of any trouble as they approached this kingdom.
“Why didn’t they lock the gates?” Razim asked.
Sidregar sighed, his breath misting before his face. He tightened the wool scarf around his neck.
“Because the danger is already inside.” He pointed to a sign on the side of the Dropwing Inn, below the board that proclaimed the inn full.
Razim leaned to his right to read it. “Beware of Ogre.” Continue reading
I watched the road from my hiding place in the linden tree. I had an advantage over the other scribes in town when it came to finding news, for I had a friend who could travel faster than the fastest stallion, and who could stand unnoticed in the midst of a crowd. And she was flying towards me now, glowing dimly like a wilowisp. Juniper’s glow had a touch more green than yellow, however, for she was a sprite.
For the past fortnight, we two had been tracking the whereabouts of the mysterious rider who was said to guard the roads in and out of Thessa, a major town in the southern region. Rumors of this shadowy guardian had drawn me to the town. The rumors were becoming a local legend. Yet no one thus far had even verified that the rider existed. He wore a suit of dark armor, it was said, and sometimes he growled so thunderingly that the flesh did quiver and the bones did tremble. Continue reading