I've decided to give this specific novel a thread of its own. It is to be Book 1 of The Angels That Fell Sideways series.
I'm posting it in the hope of attaining some constructive criticism. Praise or flaming is all well and good, feel free, but I'd also like some opinions on it as if you were writing a review on a novel you picked up at the store and began to read.
Am only planning to post the first 3-5 chapters as a teaser. Hopefully they'll be enough to give a taste.
I'm using welsh sayings and spelling here and there, so if you wonder
how some things are pronounced here is a guide:
Nwmenaidd = Numenaith (the land of numens, or unearthly beings)
Cymru = Kumree (Welsh for Wales)
Tyta = Tit-tee (Daddy)
Tylwyth Teg = Tel-oe-ith Taeg(the benevolent fairies of Wales. Alike to the Seelie, but unrelated)
Myfanwy = Muh-vahn-wi (my lady/my dear one)
« Last Edit: May 03, 2011, 08:22:55 PM by TheVorpalTribble »
Beauty. That is what I've always striven to preserve. The human body is a miraculous thing. Ingenious in design. A sublime work of art. It is meant to be beautiful. Health is beautiful. Even in the jowly depths of the old beggar, or the horse-nosed crone, there is a poetry to face and form. To its correct functioning. As a physician I have always admired its workings and warred against the ill humors that invaded it. In this waltz between birth and death my Caron had moved with unending grace. Then she had forgotten the steps in the dance of life. Something deep within had tripped.
Dawe turned away from his journal and took a breath before facing her. It was a mild spring, the mid-morning sun illuminated the bedroom in what should have been a warm and cheerful manner. Yet its golden hues only rendered Caron more pale, outlined the premature lines brought on by the crab.
Mentally he berated himself. The growths that had spread from her breast and invaded her body were but a disease devoid of superstition. Natural philosophy had enough mysteries without prescribing to dated tale of curse and beast. Caron though had clung to them despite this. He did not know if she truly believed the tumors and pain were caused by an actual crustacean within. She had always smiled when she said it. It was what she had told their son Derog.
"The crab is inside, eating me up."
Dawe had always found the visual horrifying. While operating he had noticed the telltale, claw-like hold of the veins upon the tumor, and knew why it had been named such. Carcinos. The crab. Why she thought this explanation wouldn't similarly horrify their son he was not certain. Perhaps she felt it would give Derog something to fight. You cannot truly hate an illness in the end. It is an unreasoning force, beyond your care. What you come to hate is your helplessness. Dawe certainly had come to. He could now do little but nurse her. He knew some children came to hate loved ones who had died, for leaving them. In his field he had seen it all too often. Perhaps she was hoping to direct this hate, of helplessness, of leaving, to the crab.
Hate the crab, but do not hate me. Do not hate yourself.
She had been speaking to them both.
So deep in thought was he that he did not hear the approach of soft footsteps until a board creaked in the room. There stood his young son just outside the door. The boy had a rose in his hand, and he looked almost fearful to come any nearer. He took a deep breath to steel himself and cross within.
It was an act much too adult for a child of his years, but one Dawe knew well. Before every operation he would take a deep, calming breath and murmur Caron's favorite line from Dyer; 'A little rule, a little sway, a sunbeam in a winter's day'. It reminded him that no one was safe from death, and if it was determined to come, little could he do to stop it. Still, it was the way of mortals to fight their mortality, and though physicians were always reluctant to admit it, he, Dawe Feddyg, was very much mortal. So he fought on his patient's behalf.
Apparently Dawe had come to use this bracing sigh outside the sickrooms. The child had acquired it if nothing else. Otherwise he was his mother's child, in face and eye, the auburn hair. Dawe was glad of this, for his own features were more along the lines of 'reassuring' than comely, and he and his hair had long since parted company. Still, the long, slender hands of his line were already apparent in Derog, but he doubted they would ever hold a scalpel.
His son was gifted in ways that was sure to someday be recognized. While Dawe looked for failing health in one as a habit of profession, his son seemed to seek its signs out of wariness. Derog could spot one coming down with an illness well before they themselves noticed it. However, he did it not out of compassion. He feared it. He had not even approached his grandfather in the elder's last year.
Derog drew pictures of his mother's father in a fashion both fantastic and horrific, with a skill no eight year old should have held. He depicted creatures living within the scarred pits that had dotted his skin. Of demonic creatures with tapering claws pulling his face up into the rictus of death that would soon claim him. They had quite worried Caron. She had burned them in the night, blaming an open window and the wind for their disappearance. But Dawe knew.
He glanced out of the opened panes with that thought, towards the walled garden in the back. A bush had climbed up and over, to dangle down. Idly he wondered what Derog had used to stand on to reach it. Looking back, he watched as the boy went and held the blossom to Caron's nose for her to breathe. Then a drop of blood dripped onto the clean linens. Frowning, Dawe approached Derog and took the boy's hand in his. Several fingers had beaded blood from small punctures and scratches. Then he noticed the stem. Every thorn had been pulled off. For some reason this angered Dawe. A flower, like a body, was always most beautiful when whole. To remove even such as a thorn was doing naught but taking away from it. Like love, sometimes you must embrace the pain along with the beauty.
He noticed the look on the boy's face as Derog gazed back at him, and realized the scowl that had risen unbidden. Quickly smoothing the lines, he forced a smile to his face, though couldn't completely hide the shadow of his agony. He knew she would soon pass, though so far he had not let on to his son.
"You remember how your Mam used to play with you in the garden? You recall how pretty she looked?" he asked softly.
The boy nodded and sniffed.
"You go to the garden and you draw me a picture of her, will you? Take your time and remember how it was you remember her. Then when you are done, you can bring it back. Maybe setting beside her she will remember again, hmm?"
“I will, Tyta.” Derog said, nodding. He bent over to kiss his mother, but paused. His lips pursed and kissed the air an inch above her cheek instead.
He didn't notice the look of pain on his father's face as he left.
Derog ventured into his father's study where a few sheets of rough paper were always left for him in a basket. Another ten minutes was spent trying to find the charcoal sticks he had absentmindedly left by the hearth. Within the sooty depths there was a crackle, and a little trickle of ash fell from the flue. For the briefest moment Derog thought he saw a movement, and fearing another swift had gotten trapped within, he leaned in as far as he could. Glancing up he heard nor saw anything flapping or struggling.
The occurrence immediately forgotten, he hurried for the rear entrance to the small manor. In the stillness of the room immediately after, there was a long, low whistle, and the dying embers glowed brightly before flaring back to life.
As he exited, Derog knocked over a clay bowl of lightly gold-tinted liquid left unexpectedly to the side of the door. He partially stumbled, half-way leaped the low stones stairs to the ground. The contents splashed across the herbs growing along the house, smelling of liquor.
He grabbed a short, weathered plank that the old caretaker often balanced on his knees to eat lunch upon, and dried it off on the grass. Derog had stolen it several times to use as a drawing surface, though last time had forgotten to return it and Gridge had threatened to set the bees on him.
It was those bees though as had allowed his tadcu's tyta, grandfather's father, to build this place. They made the honey that his mother's side had distilled for generations to produce the fine medd and medicinal liquors.
Production hadn't stopped with the old man's passing however. For three score years Gridge had been tending the bees and keeping up the gardens that provided that special mixture of nectars that gave the liquor that special savor. He kept going a slow but steady supply, the rarity of the vintage only driving the price higher.
Such details were lost on Derog. He only knew that the bees were important. Luckily Gridge was in town selling the brews, for it was Nos Galan Mai, the eve of the summer solstice. He had even lit a great pile of brush and coal in the trash pit that would burn all day and night. Similar bonfires would be found all about the village and its outskirts. There would be celebration that night, but Derog knew there would be no May Fair for him this year.
Not that he felt inclined had he been asked. This may be the eve of life, but inside that manor was only the silent dying of his mother.
He forced that thought away as he sat amongst the heather by a small oak. Its roots had grown under and were slowly forcing up the garden wall's stone base. He wondered why Gridge had allowed it to grow so near. Perhaps his sight was failing along with his temper. Well, Derog would keep that information until next he angered the old gaffer. It'd show he cared for the garden, and nothing was closer to that aged heart. Except maybe his mam...
No, draw her. Remember when she sat here with you and sang.
He let the remembered tune drown out that of her coughs, of her weak calls, and simply drew.
The sun was approaching noon and while the oak leaves overhead spread shade around him, the combination of concentration and sunlight were beginning to weary his eyes. He had nearly finished the sketch, but he lay back and rubbed his burning eyes with his palms. It was not right, it wasn't. There was a trace of the illness. No matter what he did she was too gaunt, her hair too lifeless. He crumpled the paper in his hand and hurled it across the lawn into the pit.
He leaned his head against the rough trunk and covered his eyes as he wept. After several minutes he calmed, but kept his hands up, and just listened. The slight wind carried with it faint music and laughter from the town, and the rhythmic plodding of a horse's hooves. There was something missing however. Something that had stopped, but always been there. It took him several moment to realize. It was the bees he could no longer hear. Their drone had ceased.
Then there was a concussive sound that he felt in the bones, like the snap of a whip. He jolted out of his half-reverie, eyes wide. Derog had expected to have to squint against the light, but deep clouds seemed to draw across the sun, and smoke was filling the area. Standing in alarm, he ran to the fire pit. As he neared, every step seemed to crackle like falling leaves. Looking down he saw he was treading through honeybees, fallen to the grass from the affects of the smoke. He tried to step around, but they were practically a carpet of fuzzy bodies. The fire within the pit had flared up, and it was much too hot. The bees on the ground were trying to pull themselves away, but occasionally one would explode with a sharp pop. Tears of confusion and smoke exposure obscured his vision. He wiped them away, and at the edge of the pit was a small man.
He was extremely stocky, with shoulders as wide as Derog's own, but no more than three feet tall. He stood with arms crossed and black eyes glinting with grim amusement. A frizzled beard and hair like burnished copper wires stuck out sharply from his head in a veritable mane. His boots appeared to be gold, and he wore chain mail that blazed as if still hot. A sash from hip to shoulder was a rich wine-red, and across it was something like a lizard or dragon woven in gold filigree, so life-like Derog found himself waiting for it to slither about.
“You have lit the flame on first High of Solstice Eve.” the figure said in a tone almost accusing, his voice both rich and scratchy at the same time.
“I didn't light it, it was already...” Derog began in confusion.
“You threw an offering within. One of great worth. That was enough. By the Cree of the Salamander and the Contract with Solomon you have earned the right to look into the inferno. How would you have me See?”
“A seeing? Anywhere?”
“Anywhere in the wide world where your life has touched. Be it in ways before this high noon, your ripples that touch this moment, or where you will echo ever after when spin has spun.” the creature replied in a sing-song manner, and stood to the side. “Pass into the fire. It will not harm you.”
“Is... is this Hell?” Derog stammered. The fire was slowly shifting and changing colors like a living aurora.
The man's face twisted into a sneer that then turned into a mocking laugh, “That would be a mortal insult, diniwed, if I was one. This doesn't mean that I am all patient. Pass, or do not pass, it is your decision.”
Unsure of himself, and with a knot growing in his stomach, Derog tentatively stepped forward. Immediately the fire was only warm, relaxing to his muscles, each lick of flame lapping like a bath's gentle caress. Then, abruptly, he felt himself go both hot on the out and cold within.
There was a horrible hissing and the flames around him died as if doused, leaving him standing in a circle of smoldering ash.
The copper-headed man screamed like a train whistle, and his dark eyes literally lit as sparks of lightening sparked from each strand of hair to another.
“A WATER CHILD?” he was roaring incredulously. “YOU? You have tricked me! So you have passed into my realm, and I invited you. What of it?! Have at your seeing then!”
The fires suddenly skewed at an angle as if from a heavy wind. The flaming ground fell away, revealing a great swirling pool of spiral arms composed of brilliant sparks. His feet began to sink as the ground faded away. He fell, or flew, as all else fell around him. Embers flickered all about, but no matter how he stretched he could not reach them or anything solid. Slowly each pin-point of light faded until he was left in absolute darkness.
“This is your future, soggy-spawning. To wander in the shadow that you yourself will weave into a sack to pull over your head. Your last sight will be the most beautiful, and it will mock you.”
A tinkling laughter came from all around and faded away, leaving him to the void.
“Derog! DEROG?” a voice called from the reaches of nothingness.
Derog sat up with a shuddering sob, his father kneeling beside him. The sunlit yard was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen.
“What were you shouting for? Are you hurting?” his father was asking, lifting his face to look Derog in the eye.
Derog simply reached up and grabbed Dawe around the neck. Dawe pulled him close, feeling him shaking violently. He had appeared asleep; most likely just a nightmare then. As he held to his son, he looked at the paper that had dropped. In the most fascinating detail was his Caron. Not as she looked now, or as Dawe had ever seen her, but as the boy must see her. His chest tightened as he looked at her smile, the girlish mischief alight in her eye that she had had when truly happy. That almost luminous glow. It was the look that shone out from her soul, and Derog had caught it. She held a thornless rose to her nose.
Derog smiled and tears came to his eyes, but they abruptly felt cold on his cheek. Her other hand was held to her heart, and her fingers curled into a claw. Or like a crab.
Nwmenaidd. Caron calls it home. To others its known as the town of tales . The hidden shire. The gateway to Annwvn. These fanciful appellations derive from a background steeped in half-remembered history and legend. What these legends are, however, are vague and fragmented. There are the stories told upon stormy days and around fires, but they are the generic type told in every village of Cymru, and are shared freely. However, there is an undercurrent to them, a secondary level of tale that are are believed rather than expressed. More and yet less than a religion. They are the private beliefs that are not so much hidden from outsiders due to fanaticism, but more from the simple fact that few would truly believe them, or be better off for knowing. Not all tales are comfortable, especially if you are not born to them.
Knowing my disdain for the unproven, Caron tested my devotion the night before our wedding by telling me a selection of such tales as she held dear. I found myself intrigued and disquieted despite myself, for the tales were possessed of a unique blend of eldritch beauty. I said as much.
'Like the moon over the mist-shrouded moors' she had intoned with a grin, as if quoting.
I did not feel ridicule for her beliefs, but somewhat entranced by the richness of my future wife's imagination and depth of feeling. We would compliment each other well.
We did, and we have. When she goes I'll be unbearably poorer for it, and the magic will have departed from my soul. Whether the undying lands to which she departs are populated by angels or fairies, I will be equally willing to follow. Until that time Derog w-
Caron has awakened.
Dawe scribbled the last three words hurriedly, and with a single stride was over to his wife's bed. Her eyes were partially open for the first time in several days, and he was certain he had heard her call Derog's name.
“Derog...” she gasped once again. So weak he had to strain to hear. Such a change from the voice that had once sung so vibrantly.
“I'll go fetch him.” he whispered, and squeezed her hand. Looking down he noticed the blue tinge to the tips. He moved his hand down to her wrist. Her pulse was much weakened as well. She hadn't the strength. Her lungs and heart were giving their last. They would not continue to the following morning.
Dawe took his breath of strength, and pressed his cheek against hers, whispering:
A little rule, a little sway,
A sunbeam in a winter's day,
Is all the proud and mighty have...
His voice caught and he couldn't continue.
“...between the cradle and the grave.” Caron breathed, finishing for him.
Dawe's jaw trembled and he kissed her gently. He leaned back, staring into her eyes.
“Our sunbeam...” she spoke so softly, pleading.
He nodded and stood. In the common room Derog was poking up the flu with a stick for some boyish reason.
“Derog.” Dawe called.
The boy jerked in surprise, as if he had been caught doing something forbidden. “Your mam is awake. She's asking for you.”
“I... don't want to.” Derog said, his eyes fearful.
“She is awake, and you will go to her.” Dawe replied, his anguish sharpening his tone.
“Derog, I have not laid a hand on you in years, but if you do not go see your mother now, you will not be able to sit come three days forth.” Dawe found himself saying, rage entering his tone.
Derog didn't respond at first, but stared at him a searching expression.
“What's wrong, Tyta?” he asked.
Dawe hadn't realized until this moment how his son had matured. The question was observant and belied his age. Perhaps it was time.
“I feel she wishes to say goodbye.” he replied to his son, and held out a hand.
Derog dropped his stick wordlessly, and stepped to his father's side. Dawe put an arm around his shoulders, and together they walked back to the sickroom. Caron's head lay to the side, but her chest still managed to move the coverlets up and down. She'd fallen back to sleep - the sheer exhaustion of consciousness had overcome her.
Dawe took her wrist and closed his eyes for several moments. When he opened them there was only weary sadness.
“Derog, you need to go into town and find Gridge. He will want to see your mother. Can you do this?”
Derog nodded quickly. Too quickly. Relief was in his eyes. To get out of this room. Out of this house. Yes.
He quickly exited and ran towards the stables. He saddled a half-shetland his grandfather had acquired some years before. It had been the perfect horse for a growing boy, but the two had never quite bonded despite Derog being a natural rider. The gelding was too free spirited, Derog too quick to berate it. It sensed the urgency in the boy however, and made no trouble.
Together they took off down the backhills upon which the manor overlooked, Derog disdaining the lane that wound to the main trails. Cross-country would be faster. They rolled into the distance, the occasional tree or stone emerging from the heath and low grasses. To the north was a valley of mossy woodlands that bordered his grandfather's estates, all bluebells, mistletoe and small, winding valleys. To the southeast were most of the homesteads and fenced fields before coming to Nwmenaidd. His grandfather Craig had enjoyed the freedom away from his neighbors in the highlands, though remained close enough for trade and travel. Nwmenaidd was some five miles away, but the horse was feeling frisky and enjoyed the quickened pace Derog set for it.
Soon they met the bend of the main trail. It wound its way like an errant branch from the highway that connected their town with Merthyr Tydfil to the far southeast, crossing the river Taff on the bridge named Grig's Hop.
As Derog neared the the town, familiar groves began to dot the landscape. Springs bubbled up by the dozens in this country, forming something between a marsh and a pond. A unique type of tree grew immensely thick about them, found nowhere else in Cymru. They had vast weeping branches that seemed to tangle and knot of their own accord. The canopy was wont to weave above as well, so that the waters within were shrouded in darkness. From these trees hung clusters of berries as large as grapes but appeared as frostbit blueberries. Nothing seemed to eat them, understandable once one took a bite. To say they were sweet was an understatement. It overpowered the tongue and went straight to a throat-clenching bitterness mixed with that of rotting lard. As such, the fruit tended to fall untouched and roll, souring the otherwise pure waters. Even cut, the growths were unusable as firewood, resisting all attempts to cure, and instead quickly rotting. Their only redeeming feature was the unassuming white blossoms possessed of a deep, heady bouquet. Everything the rest of the growth lacked was more than made up for by these blooms. Wilted wreaths decorated many cottages Derog passed, and garlands were thrown over carts and beasts of burden. They didn't last long once separated from the waters of the springs, but for a day or two after gathering they would intoxicate the inhabitants of Nwmenaidd with their scent. During previous festivals Derog had watched a number of those with weaker constitution pulled away from a boquet to fresher air, dizzied by the aroma.
The smell grew stronger as he approached the outskirts of Nwmenaidd. This was marked by massive cromlech that stretched across the valley. The road went through the two standing pillar-like slabs some three stories high and three strides across. They supported a third horizontal slab above that measured several hundred strides long. There was never a time the 'Gate', as they were called, had not been here. It was said to be older than Stonehenge, and was certainly far more massive. It could not possibly have been moved by hand, regardless of ingenuity. Gridge had once told him a river had likely run through, as the ground was gravely, washing away the soil.
“So... this was once underground?” Derog had asked, piecing the unlikely hints together
It was one of the few times the elder had smiled at him, “Aye. Makes one think, durnt it?”
The top slab had so long been the resting place of birds that a layer of soil was said to be atop, from which entire trees and bushes now grew. Vines hung down, some nearly to the road if not for their routine cuttings.
The houses within town were newer than the frequent stone cottages were without, the town true only having been built within the last couple centuries, with the coming of the protestant movement and the seizure of the land by the Crown. A number however were quite ancient.
Despite the Church's influence, Nwmenaidd was as full of rituals and offerings to other powers as any, and ministers had never settled. Instead they moved from town to town, as often as not giving the Gateway a wide berth. The inhabitants had never discouraged the clergymen, and treated them as guests, but there was an air to the town that discouraged them. Ancient traditions and beliefs older than the church of England itself were firmly settled in the land, and the minds that dwelt upon it.
Derog had heard a bit of this here and there in town, always curious as to what the secrets were that seemed to permeate the peoples and their lives. It seemed both a burden and a blessing to them. Such observations had always come easily to him, but knowing his father always seemed to require an explanation, a reason for believing anything, he kept them to himself.
His mam had understood however, saying he had the gift of 'Second Sight'.
Little did that help others to understand. Derog knew he could not explain, but equally he knew his intuition had never failed him. As such his mouth remained closed, and he played the part of the innocent.
Knowing that such a ruse was necessary was one of many quirks to his particular mind. The knowledge of things as they were, not as they seemed. The guise beneath the mask. What it hid had always troubled him. The ugliness was hidden beneath such a thin covering, and yet that outward film was what most in life took as the truth. The still waters hid many a horror, and he knew what the smallest ripples foretold.
In one of greater years it would have been called wisdom. In a child without the years of social adaption and defense, these understandings in his earliest years were life altering and traumatic.
Derog knew he was far removed from the other children that ran passed him as he entered town. They still believed the mask, and trusted it with all their hearts. Paradoxically this is also why he get along so well with younger children. They were still what they appeared to be. Those of even his own age however had begun to mold the clay into the caricature that they would wear all their lives.
His mother was one of the few adults he had met who was not hidden by such an affection. She was what she had shown herself to be. This fact was all the more disturbing to him as he watched the crab eat away at her mind as much as her body, leaving her only rarely coherent. His father on the other hand was equally unique, one whom he could seldom read. A mystery that only his mother had seemed to solve. What his father would do without her balancing presence he couldn't guess, but Derog knew that the physician would be a different man.
Then there was Gridge. The only other he had ever taken a liking to besides his mam, though Derog would as soon die as admit to such. As much as his mam was supporting and loving, the old man was suspicious and brutal in regards to Derog. It was honest however, and while the grizzled Scotsman might have no love for him, Gridge considered his mam nigh a daughter. She had been the one to first gift him with his moniker. Unable to pronounce the caretaker's birth-name of Gregoire, she'd called him Gridge, and now few knew him otherwise.
The road through town was busy with horses, riders and pedestrians, though rarely were they so thick that they impeded his process. Few were strangers. Despite the renown of the town's festivals few traveled to experience them. There was always a surreal feel to the town, though in most obvious ways it was indistinguishable from another fairly prosperous village. Greenery was much more abundant however, and few were the homes that didn't boast a small garden, or wide sill a potted plant amongst the cooling pies. Moss and ivies were rampant, as well as the accompanying bee and wasp that dwelt amongst flourishing blossom. In fact, from a distant hill many would see an ocean of green broken only by the occasional chimney top.
Small stalls and temporary lean-tos had been set up all about the market, selling all manner of bloom and plant for the morrow. Derog turned his mount to avoid the crowd by taking a small detour through a back walk around the market. He brought the horse to a halt though as a lively melody rose above the urban cacophony.
Turning away from his intended route to the pub, Derog instead peered about for an unobstructed path to the town green. Ironically the green was normally one of the least verdant locations Nwmenaidd. The town was roughly crescent in shape, built about the green, where many generations had worn down the grass and heather by feet and the appetite of grazing mounts.
Today however lattices had been constructed in the middle of the green, surrounding a raised chair upon the dais where the May Queen would sit. By the next morning the lattice would be a solid wall of twining vines and blossoms. No less than a dozen enormous pits were ablaze here and there about the green as well, their walls strengthened by heat blackened brick.
Meals were being eaten, though none seemed to be using the fires for any kind of cooking. These were a different type of fire upon the eve. Anything roasted by it would be an offering, not a meal.
A small crowd reclined amongst the turf, though in their midst stood several with various instruments in vigorous play. Amongst the musicians was Gridge, his fingers flying along his timeworn fipple flute. Derog couldn't help but smirk at the scene, as the man was rarely seen with anything but a thoughtful half-scowl. Music was the one pathway from which he allowed his inner side to emerge.
He still had a mane of hair that in defiance of his age would have hung nearly to his shoulders if not for its defiance of gravity as well. What had once been a strawberry blonde was now a brilliant white. His face was clean shaven, the five o clock not yet struck to cast its shadow upon his jaw. In his case, however, it would not have been shade so much as an early frost.
Piercing green eyes and a sparse frame of lean muscle often attracted the eye of many a woman thirty years or more his junior. Gridge had never married, and it was rumored he enjoyed the company of women, though cared little for a permanent bond. Still, his affairs were altogether private, only the spark in his eye giving away his attentions.
Such a spark was in there now as he pranced about men that could be his grandsons. At any other time Derog would have used the scene before him for a prank or jibe that would bring the elder out of his tune with clenched fists. Despite the festivities and sense of holiday, all Derog could think of was he would likely remember this day as his mother's last for the rest of his life.
He waited for the end of the song and Gridge to finish his dip into the bucket of spiked water before approaching. As Derog spoke, he watched the sparkles fade from the green eyes, to be replaced with the normal cold glint. Wordlessly the elder walked away with a brisk pace to fetch his cart. Though the old man had set his face, Derog could see the sorrow in the crinkling of his eyes. On a whim Derog left the horse with the stable and climbed in beside Gridge. He seemed to take no notice, just clicking for the massive clydesdale to move along.
In the brooding silence that continued out of town, Derog found his thoughts dwelling on how oddly real it felt that this was happening. For some reason he'd thought it'd be hard to grasp, but now he had to acknowledge something he'd refused to admit to himself; he hadn't thought of her as his mother in some time.
As she'd shrunk, the disease feasting with agonizing slowness, and ravaging her body, she had died to him. It had hollowed her out, leaving only a shell for the crab to wear. He found he felt almost relieved that she was failing. It would be over, and they would bury the crab where it could do no more harm.
The cart hit a rock and jolted, and Derog looked about, marveling. So dark had been his thoughts he was somewhat surprised to find it still cheerfully bright. It was like waking up, and he felt shame at the direction his mind had wandered.
"Gridge." he said unexpectedly.
The elder twitched slightly and scowled.
"Whart?" he responded after a moment.
Derog found he had no idea why he had exclaimed. In that moment of pain at the realization of how he now saw his mother, he had blurted out to cover his mental admonitions.
"What... whatfore did you leave that bowl out by the door for?" he said quickly.
"An offering." Gridge said shortly.
“For a good year."
"A good year of what?"
"OF HONEY! Whatfore do ye ask? Ye upset it?" Gridge cried out in annoyed passion, a tone that'd have made any child cower who didn't know the elder.
Derog just grinned, glad to get a rise from him.
"Boy, if not for your dear mam off her feet I'd tear yer a pocket to stick ye teeth in." he said through clenched jaws, but as soon as he'd said it he regretted it. Not so much the threat than the mention of Caron, a much lower blow.
"We was down last year, and 'twas a harsh winter." he elaborated in a more subdued tone. "Can use all the blessing can get."
"You believe in blessings?" even after mam? Derog had meant to add, but couldn't bring himself to say it.
"If there be blessings there assure be curses."
"Seeings and dreams?" Derog ventured quietly.
For the first time Gridge turned to look at the boy, surprised by the change in his voice. There was no smart tone, no daft nonsense. Just seriousness, and a little fear. The boy peered ahead, avoiding his eye.
"Aye, perhaps." he said finally. "In the manner of the seeing determining."
Hearing the interest in the man's voice, Derog decided to tell him his dream. Gridge had a head to things of the 'fools ways' as his tyta referred to; that not described through natural philosophy.
Gridge was silent for some moments after, and Derog knew he was considering the matter with some seriousness. Otherwise he'd have layed into him.
“Sounds like you met one of the sideways folk.” he finally said, a touch of interest betraying his voice.
Derog gazed at him in confusion. “He was standing straight, not sideways, Gridge! Don't treat this with fun.”
“That I am not. They are the ones as I left the medd out for, though it appears you got yourself a hearth spirit instead of onna the Ladies.”
“Why are they sideways?” Derog asked, wondering what he meant by 'the ladies'.
“Something my father's father would tell me. He was a Catholic clergyman before leaving the church. Had been all over Europe, and the dark continent. The Holy Lands too. Saw many a thing he couldn't explain. He'd say ye had Jehovah and his angels. Then there are the Devil and the imps and evils. Them as were fallen angels. But there were things and powers, as mighty as any angel or demon, but not rightly of them or man. They never tried to lead ye against the Almighty, or crusade against the Opponent. They didna care about neething but their own mischief and merriment.” he said, trailing off to give Derog a withering stare.
“He'd reckoned that they were once angels too, but they'd stayed to the side of that Great Conflict. He'd said they weren't thrown out, but chosen to leave Kingdom come. He'd said they'd fallen sideways. The Tylwyth Teg.”
He flushed at Derog's blank look.
“Both ye folk with Nwmenaidd blood and ye dunna know even that? You're mam surely must mentioned them. The Lord have mercy, what do you learn in London aside from how to dodge carriages?”
Dawe shrugged. He had heard a number of tales, but they'd been told him in secret by his mother. She'd explained that while she did not want to anger Dawe, there were things that needed knowing if one was from their town. Even now he would not betray her by admitting his knowing.
“Fair folk and shining ones. The little people and fairies? Pagan gods and suchlike. It makes as much sense as any. The Tylwyth Teg be the stewards of this Cymru land. They be the good ones, and they keep out the Unseelie. In the land of scotts, where I was a bairn, they still terrorize. Snatch babes from the cradle. Replace them with changelings and the like. Wouldn't surprise me if'n you weren't one of'em.”
“I seemed to have angered that hearth man.” Derog cut in, ignoring the jibe.
“Aye, perhaps, or mebbe he was just trying to put the fear in ye as jest. As I say, even the benevolents be fickle and fey. That last be where the word come from. Why he might've called ye a child of the waters I couldn't say.” Gridge said in a tone meant to reassure, but a sly look came to his eye, “But you'll like be moving back to the cities anyways, healer like ye tyta won't stay long here in the boons, and them fair folk don't care much for the glint of the iron or bein' seen by many folk. Ye'll be safe there. Churches too they can't abide, having parted from the Almighty.”
Derog's eyes widened, “Where are they then? Are they around us unseen all the time here?”
“Do I look like a fairy to know? You meet another, and they don't make a toadstool of ye, see ifna they tell ye!” Gridge finished and leaned back on the bench, obviously having had his say.
As the cart rattled down the lane, Derog returned to his thoughts. Despite Gridge's claim to the altruism of these Tylwyth Teg, his dream continued to trouble him. As they approached the familiar lane towards the manor, his uneasiness returned to a more concrete dread. Tonight the crab would finish his mam.
...Derog sat within the main room, near the hearth. Clouds had unexpectedly rolled in during the evening, and rain was falling in quantity that was nigh diluvian. The temperature was unseasonably cool and Gridge had started a blaze in the hearth. The boy watched the seasoned oak crackling and popping, and tried to recall his dream. The domovoi that had come to him. Derog tried to catch him in his sketchings, but the details, what of his details. Feature and form that were always so crystalline clear to him swam in his memory and refused to surface.
In frustration he set down the charcoal and looked about the room. His grandfather had been considerably well off due to his brewing, but the small manor was far more homey than opulent. The old man's father and his brothers had built it themselves and tamed the land about. All that was left was his mother in that line, she and himself.
Thinking of her, he stood and went to glance into the room. A low-voiced, yet intense discussion was taking place, and he stood outside the doorway.
“Son, is there nothing ye kin do? No time is good for a lass still so young to pass, but of all nights this...” Gridge was saying.
“What night, Greg? May eve?” Dawe responded with uncharacteristic sharpness. “What of it? Death is death! Nothing changes it, you hear? NOTHING!”
Derog felt a chill run through him for the second time that day. So she was dying. While he had known it the admission and his father's tone settled into a knot of dread. Gridge's too. He was genuinely concerned.
“Lad, you could be my grandson, yet I know ye've seen more of death than these old eyes ever will. Its ye path and cross to bear. But harken, I seen life aplenty, and there be a restlessness upon the May in Nwmenaidd, and this is the most restless eve of that May I've yet to see. Believe it or no, the less restlessness in a soul departing the better. That's all I say.”
“Greg, I can't think like that. I will not live a life of fearing ghouls in every creak in the dark.”
“Nor does it mean ye cover your eyes. Your father was a great physician as well, and he subscribed to this natural philosophy of yours. But, I hear tell he didn't scoff at that which went beyond it. He'd been born to this town, and he knew not all was obvious to the eye and measure. What of that heirloom he's said to have had? Book with all sorts of medicines handed down from ye greats?”
“It is nonsense, through and through. These so called medicines were like as to ail as aid. It remains in London regardless.”
“Well Dawe, best you begin praying then. Seems that's all you've left yourself with.”
Dawe remained silent, and Derog heard footsteps approach the end of the room where the writing desk was located.
Derog went to bed late that night, his father not even mentioning sleep as he had every night before. As such he felt oddly out of sorts. He had been forgotten that evening. As he walked the dark hallways by memory, he heard a sound to his side, but upon turning to look there was silence. Widening his eyes and looking out of the corners he could barely make out the outlines of doorways, much less anything smaller. The sound then continued, a strange skittering. His first thought was a rat, but it was distinctively different than any he'd heard before. He began to follow it, though if ever he got too near it would silence and then resume much farther ahead. He then came to a closed doorway. Putting his ear against the wood, he heard the sound continuing on. Pushing them open with a slight squeak, he found himself in his grandfather's old room. The infrequent flash of lightening illuminated it slightly, but saw nothing. He felt his way to the other side of the room and sat by the window, listening to the rain strike against the panes like a continuous stream of pebbles. Something then jabbed his hand. The lightening lit again, and standing by his palm on the sill was a tiny pale crab. It was a variety he'd been shown while on vacations to the beaches at Swansea. The type that took other shells or trash and used it to protect themselves. This one however was exposed and uncovered. Then the light was gone.
Derog felt around, but was unable to feel the creature. The sky lit up again and he glanced about the room, to see a figure standing not ten feet away.
“Mam...” Derog breathed.
She was young and beautiful, unravaged by disease. Though not seeming to glow, he could see her sharply amidst the darkness even once the initial flash had faded. She opened her mouth to smile, but in that moment the crab scurried up from within her gown and crawled into her mouth. Hair abruptly fell out in clumps, and her skin shriveled. She kneeled and held out her arms, but Derog flinched away.
“Derog, my Derog!” she was saying, and a tear ran down her wasted cheek as she stood.
“STAY AWAY!” he yelled as she stepped towards him. “You're dead!”
“I know, I'm so sorry. I never wanted to leave you. Let me just kiss you one last time.” she said with pleading tones. A claw stuck out from between her teeth and clacked.
Derog shook his head and back away until he bumped into the window sill. “You just want to feed me the crab!”
“Derog! There is no crab! I was just sick. ” she tried to explain, but Derog refused to listen. Not to this ravaged Cyhyraeth.
Derog turned as she came closer and pushed against the windows. He had to shove hard, fighting against the wind. Then with a gust they were blown out, smashing against the side of the manor violently enough to shatter several panes. Rain was throw in by the gale, immediately soaking him. He jumped up to the sill and down the five feet to soaked, mossy ground. He sank several inches, throwing up a muddy spray, and nearly lost his balance. Catching himself, he looked back to see his mother looking out as if he were the ghost.
“DEROG!” she wailed, a horrible keening that shook him in his bones and overwhelmed the thunder and rain.
He ran, hardly noticing the storm, the mixture of wind and wet that brought his teeth to chattering. He ran all he could, feeling the urge to get away from death, from disease, from everything ugly that dwelled within that home and the world. He stubbed his toes on rocks, slipping down hills, but such was his headlong flight these did little to slow him.
Eventually he paused to catch his breath, and peered into the near absolute darkness. Only now did he realize how little he had thought. He simply had had to be away from that house. However, where he was he had no idea.
He listened as he walked, trying to ignore the pounding rain. Eventually the rushing of water grew strong enough to be heard over the rain and he knew he must be nearing the Afon Taf. If he followed the river he'd come to Grig's Hop and know where he was. For almost an hour he walked, but he never seemed to get any nearer the river, much less the bridge. By now the heat of his flight had long been consumed by the drops.
He wrapped his arms about himself and continued on, keeping a lookout for any kind of lights in the distance. It was then he noticed a great shadow rising before him. He was nearing the edge of a wood. He was certain he hadn't been going anywhere near the wilder areas. If anything he would have been moving in the opposite direction.
It was then in the distance he saw the dimmest of glows. If he hadn't become so accostomed to the darkness he likely would never have noticed. Almost everyone in the area knew either Gridge or Caron, so he was certain he would be taken in for the night. The glow didn't seem to grow any brighter however, though numerous lights began to appear, scattered through the woods.
His heart fell however as the lights began to move. He hurried forward with dread, and then stopped. He'd been chasing fireflies this entire time. They never seemed to flash off, just a steady, streaming brilliance. Despite the panic at discovering he was now hopelessly lost, he found himself fascinated by the spectacle. Forgetting his fear, he was instead filled with a longing to be amongst the beauty before him. A cloying, sweet smoke began to burn his eyes as he entered a meadow of ferns that filled the clearing. Here the fireflies twirled, not seeming to mind the pungent miasma. He reached out and tried to grab one, but as it touched his hand a burning pain filled his palm followed by a sudden coldness. He opened his fist, and a small scorch mark marred his skin. Glancing closely he realized there were no wings or even a bug at all. They were living embers. What he had taken for white noise was the hissing of the sparks in their death throes, which danced in an attempt to avoid the raindrops. It was a deadly waltz for them, as one would spin only to meet it's ethereal end by the splatter of a stray drip.
They seemed to issue continuously from just on the edge of the clearing, and he found himself creeping quietly over. The ground then spun below him as something plucked him from the ground. He was brought to a face surrounded by the embers, an enormous face. It seemed carved out of living, polished wood, though the glowing red eyes in the dark face were anything but vegetable. It was a solemn, noble visage not of Britain, but of the exotic peoples to the east. It sucked on a long, intricately carved pipe with a bowl the size of a washtub. It was from this bowl that the embers were awakened and took flight
The dream-like state was suddenly missing and he was very much awake. Why had he followed the light of the embers?
Continued on next page...
Chapter 2 continued
The giant seemed to be regarding him. It was easily ten feet tall and very long and lanky. It was leaning against a massive oak, and what he had mistook for young trees were its knobby legs. A loincloth that draped the back and front was its only concession to modesty. It appeared to have four arms, one of which was holding him in the air with no hint of strain. It took a particularly deep puff upon its pipe, illuminating the creature farther. Derog recoiled. What he had mistaken for a pattern of pimples or nobs about its skin were faces. They were frozen, most in grimaces of pain or open-mouthed terror. They were wooden however, and grew from his naked flesh.
It then allowed the smoke to leak from its nostrils as it removed the pipe from its lips. A language he had never heard moaned forth, surprisingly soft in volume, but so deep he felt them in his bones. It appeared to be expecting an answer.
“I don't know what you're saying.” Derog whispered, terrified by this being, yet at the same time fascinated.
Narrowing its eyes thoughtfully, it peered at the boy and brought the pipe back up. It held the bowl up to Derog's face, who began to choke on its fumes and blister from the flying fires. When Derog thought he might pass out, the bowl was taken away. With a smirk the creature brought the pipe back to its own face to puff.
Desperation and anger raged within Derog. He kicked the bowl of the pipe as hard as he could just as it inhaled. It was so heavy he felt he had bruised his foot, but the sparks were flying everywhere. In surprise the treeish man's grip loosened and Derog used his sodden state to slip out. He fell to the ground and rolled to his stomach, the breath knocked out of him. The creature batted at the cloud of sparks surrounding him and wheezed a command. Stepping into the clearing were what appeared as powerfully built men with muscles like wooden knots encased in rich dark skin. However, where their heads should have been were round, knobby burls; wrinkled and hard.
For the second time that night Derog ran. They burl men charged as one. He had thought he had run before, but now he knew what it was like to run for his life. While he ducked and weaved about the trunks, the men simply lowered their wooden heads and battered their way through the undergrowth. They didn't seem to possess any sight, and occasionally one would ricochet off a particularly unyielding growth.
He ducked under a log and paused, breathing as deep and quietly as he could. They immediately slowed as well. The burl heads milled about as if uncertain. Derog stood as quietly as he could and began to tip-toe through the mould, the rain drowning out his steps and dampening the leaves underfoot. He had made it some forty feet when he splashed into an unexpected hollow. Immediately half the creatures took running leaps that carried them completely over him, and they turned to block him.
Desperately he looked about and sprinted uphill, pulling at small trees growing up the bank to hurry his ascent. The creatures were leaping right behind him, though seemed to have difficulty. They slipped down the leaves that covered the ground once they landed. Likewise they were far too heavy to grip the saplings without yanking them out by the roots. As Derog climbed the ground began to be spotted with rocks and eventually he cleared the valley ledge. He allowed himself several deep breaths and turned, trying to ignore the burning in his lungs and calves.
He barely had taken a dozen steps when he rebounded off something spongy yet sturdy in the dark, and landed hard enough to daze him. Not possessing the wooden noggins of his pursuers, blood streamed from a cut on his head, feeling hot beside the cold rain. Reaching out to what he had hit he felt, a rough bit of stone thick with moss smeared with his blood.
Above, the clouds immediately ceased their deluge but began to flicker with almost continuous light. His surroundings lit by the clouds, he saw he was atop a hill. The top was rocky and the heath sparse, the former appearing too smooth to be natural, as if they had partially melted. In the middle was an obelisk-like stone some six feet high. Moss and lichen grew in whirls and twisting patterns upon it like artistic runes.
Then the world went white. Derog didn't have time to blink before he went deaf as well. Lightening had come down and struck the stone straight on. As his vision cleared he saw that all growth had been cleared from its surface. Now lines of flame flickered where the growths had been, the runes glowing sharply. The stink of ozone and burnt blood filled his nostrils.
The clouds above began to flicker even more brightly, and Derog just had time to curl in on himself before they struck again. He opened his eyes just in time to watch the lightning arc from the obelisk to strike a dead tree on the edge of the hill. It immediately burst into flame. Where the fire touched, the tree's bare wood thickened with bark. Flame trickled up the broken branches, and they lengthened and grew supple. Buds burst from the tips and in moments the tree was consumed in the leaves and blossoms of the spring fed groves. The fire then faded away, except for the veins of the leaves which continued to glow with a hale radiance. Several roots ripped out of the ground and convulsed, tearing the rocky ground to pieces. Left was a hole in the ground that flared up with an eerie red glow. Stone steps descended down as far as Derog could see. This whole process had taken no more than several seconds.
Then there was another flash. Derog covered his eyes and ears, and wept onto the stoney ground. Then there was nothing. Carefully he creaked open an eye. He was in a great circle of fire. All the trees that had died upon or about the hill had been brought back to life in a new guise, and all had stairwells leading downward.
Something began to hurry up the stairs. Many somethings, shadows of all shapes and sizes streaming up.
Derog stared for a moment before running down the hill. Behind him something lean and pale threw back its head and let out a keening scream that reminded him of a dying rabbit a stray dog had once brought to the manor.
Entering the woods, he ducked behind a tree and glanced back. Nothing seemed to be pursuing him.
Music could be heard through the forest in an unhuman scale, both eerie and intriguing. It wafted about the wood much like the drenched, bleeding boy weaved through the trunks to escape it. He found himself moving almost in tune with it, and the catching thorns and tripping roots never seemed to ensnare him. It was very much like a dream as he danced through the wood, and almost he wished to turn back, to discover what could make such a melody.
On the hill , unblinking fireflies flitted above, dancing and dipping with the song. The light above continued to increase and with it the temperature. Derog found himself surrounded by a thick fog that now hid even the telltale shadows of rock and tree.
Feeling ahead of him, Derog tried to make his way down into the valley. Then twin orbs of red peered from the dark ahead. Before Derog could even turn, a familiar hardwood hand grabbed him. Derog twisted and squirmed, the cold sweat of fear pouring from him. He felt himself slipping within its grasp but then it took him in two hands, fingers interlocked. Then it began to squeeze. Derog quickly weakened and his vision faded, the horrible red orbs before him narrowed in fury.
A strange scent began to fill the air. It reminded Derog of sun on freshly cut hay, of bluebells by the river's edge, and, strangely enough, his mother's hair before she had taken ill, when she had sat with him in the garden.
“K?l? betaa!” a voice cried out.
It was clear and resonant without being loud. A voice that sent strange shivers through Derog even as he blacked out. Then he was set to the ground. Though sight returned he was surrounded by darkness still. Breathing in deep, frantic sobs he tried to move away, but his legs would no longer obey. Then the fog took on a luminous quality. Standing nearby with head bowed was the smoking giant, his pipe no longer in its mouth.
A woman stepped around its tree-trunk thick leg, running a hand over its knobby knee in a reassuring manner as she passed. As she came fully into sight, Derog's eyes seemed to open for the first time. Like a babe emerging into the day when all it had known was the womb. Fear was forgotten, his pain and confusion. Before him was his heart's desire.
Not as the poet's wrote. This was not love. Not even worship. This was everything he desired and needed combined, not knowing until this moment that he had ever lacked.
“Myfanwy...” he breathed. 'My lady. My love.' his soul echoed.
She was not a lady however. Not a woman. Or she was what all women dreamed of being, but even such dreams would not have reached the perfection he saw before him. While all others had some blemish, something than hinted at the disease of mortality that would someday take them, this creature standing before him would never know such a mark. Even the most vibrant woman in the bloom of youth was a wilting blossom before this flawless flower.
Her skin was nether pale nor dark, but a vibrant, sunkissed gold the likes he had never seen. She wore no clothing or jewelry of any kind, but this seemed perfectly natural and in no way indecent. No wrappings could improve her, no gem could match her. Like a deer in the field or a salmon in the sea, she was in her element. Regal as a queen, unabashed as a child. Both strong as an oak and soft as down. It was Derog who now felt weak and sullied, wrapped in rag's to hide his mortal infirmities.
Her hair of kinks and curls was all shades - pale and dark, red and gold and auburn, all shading to the other like a wild creature's fur, and catching the light like a fowl's feather. It hung to the small of her back in an untamed mass, yet so soft and thick it formed no tangles.
It was her eyes however that truly held him. They were almond shaped and large, nearly to the point of seeming nocturnal. The irises were a deep blue, a shade nearly purple, and so liquid he felt he could swim within.
A smile, sweet and concerned, lit in her face. An expression that made him forget his thoughts of inferiority. Made him feel special and warm and strong.
“You are lost, child.” she said, kneeling beside him.
“Not any more.” he replied with a tone of heartfelt conviction that would have surprised those that knew him. It was not a child's tone. Nor was the hand that reached up to touch her hair a child's gesture.
The creature before him ducked her head in a manner both bashful and coy. Behind them the tree man rumbled like thunder threatening to lash out.
“Or perhaps he is a man-child.” she said, looking back up with an unreadable gaze. “But tonight is not a night for man. You need to return home, Elidorus. The king will not have you again, you know this well.”
“I am Derog.”
“Are you? What of Elidorus?”
“I don't know him.” Derog responded inf confusion, but then something sparked in his memory. “Or... not Elidorus and the golden ball?”
“Oh yes, so you do know him!”
“That happened? It's true?”
“Very much so. It is because of him I must send you away. Mortal children must not see our dance.”
“That was hundreds of years ago! I would stay with you forever, lady.”
“Forever.” the nymph said with a laugh that made Derog's heart beat faster without his knowing why. “Forever and ever? Only that? A forever of man is so short, Derog.”
“It'd be a lifetime for me.”
“Derog. The obstinate one indeed. “ she said in a tone of approval. “But you will forget me by morning.”
“But that is the way of things. You may dream, and maybe those will keep you happy. Come, to your feet.” she said with a grin. With no effort she lifted him up.
She plucked a small wild rose from a bramble and kissed it. It slowly darkened until it had taken on the indigo hue of her eyes.
“You take this, and with it you will know the way out of the woods as long as it lie quiet in your palm.”
“Myfanwy, please don't send me away. Myfanwy...” Derog pleaded, and tears momentarily blinded him.
The nymph seemed taken aback by this, and touched his cheek with a finger. Upon it was a tear. She brought it to her mouth and tasted.
“Such a gift.” she breathed, and reached out to embrace Derog.
“If my memory is so strong that you recall then you will find me again some day.” she whispered into his ear. “You gave me sorrow, I give you hope, even if it is for just this night.”
She then pulled away. It was then he realized just how small she was. He had put on a lot of growth this year, but he was still years from his man's height. In boots he could look into her eyes however, and as she stepped away he didn't miss an opportunity to do so.
“I will remember.” he promised. “I will.”
“Then there is no need for tears.” she replied, encouragingly. “Now leave us this night.”
Derog looked at her, memorizing her, relishing her. Then he turned and disappeared into the mist.
The temperature rapidly began to lower, and then the rain began to once again fall. He turned around, looking longingly. Then the tiny thorns of the rose bit his hand for the second time that day. As he turned back around they grew limp in his hand. He would return in the morning he promised himself. But until then, the rose would deter him, and he would not toss aside her gift.
The nymff watched him leave, impressed despite herself. She had watched the first men come to the island before it was an island, and over the millenia had had many admirers from chance encounters like tonight's. Yet in the eyes of that twelve year old boy had been admiration that would have drowned their amour.
“Why did you encourage him?” a deep, scratchy voice said behind her in a challenging tone.
“Mortals never remember the morning after, you know this.” the nymff said with a touch of sadness. “And what I said. Love's tears is a precious gift, Lamba-Dand.”
The giant snorted, “Weeping a gift. You have many strange ideas, my Lady of the Indigo Eyes.”
The nymff turned to the giant, her disapproving frown as comely as any mortal woman's expression of joy.
“Have you never wept?”
Lamba-Dand drew himself up proudly, “The sons of Kali do not weep, and certainly not their Oldest. I would have bled him had he not made the sacrifice himself. Remorse weakens and stills the hand from action.“
“Luckily for he then. “ Indigo said softly and turned away, “So he slipped from your grasp? It is said none can escape a kapre's grip. “
“This land is weak. Men have drained away much of it's strength.” Lambda-Dand said with a glower. “And it grows weaker with each year. I do not understand why your sire allows it. The others might stay behind the Hedge, living easy in Fae, but the Green Man is said to love these wilds.”
“Men were once wild as well. They still revere him here and there. In the untamed places of their hearts.” Indigo said, her tone deliberately unchanged. “
“They should FEAR him!” Lambda-Dand roared.
“So should you, my Kapre Lord. You take from me my right to blood sacrifice. I did not condone it, so you took it. Then once the sacrifice is made you pursue him, to kill a child of my lands, when all that was needed was a drop of his blood. A DROP.” Indigo replied, her eyes lit dangerously. “The Tylwyth Teg are not the Unseelie. Gwyp Ap Nudd signed with Solomon. This you know.”
A lazy smile then played across her face.
Lambda-Dand sucked in his breath and his eyes widened as she advanced on him. It was more like a stalk, and her unique scent taking on a sharp, musky tone. He stood unmoving, paralyzed with desire as she climbed his limbs and balanced upon his chest to peer into his eyes.
She stroked his beard and then grabbed it sharply. The warmth snapped into instance winter. “I am hyleoroi of the Gated Fforests, and you will pay me the respect I deserve, and those under my protection. Otherwise I will kindle a flame within that will hollow you out.”
She leaped down and 4 foot 11 looked into the widened eyes of 11 foot 4. There was no fear in hers.
Abruptly Lambda-Dand shook himself, as if coming out of a dream. His chest heaved and a fierce, wondering smile came to his face. He lowered himself onto one knee and bowed his head before her.
“So you do have bite, my Lady of Indigo, just as I have been told. Someday we will be a mighty force.”
“Someday may be farther than you think, Firstborn.” Indigo replied, the cold tone fading away, to one of weariness.
Lambda-Dan beat his hand against his chest, “You have shunned my advances for some time, Lady, but I will win your favor. ”
“You have not even begun, Lambda-Dand. ”
“What must I do?”
“For a beginning? I would learn to cry.”
Lost. My family disappeared overnight. My dearest Caron passed with a sigh of relief in her sleep. Those wracked by disease rarely go so peacefully in the end, and I am grateful. My mourning must be postponed however, for Derog has gone missing, and the living take precedence over the dead. It was a few minutes after midnight when I heard a wail and the sound of shattering glass. Gregoire started upright, and for a moment I worried for the man's heart. For the first time in the years I have known him I watched him mutter a prayer and cross himself. He joined me later in Master Craig's old room, whose doors had not only been unlocked, but left ajar. I fear that some intruder entered in the night and stole Derog. Such kidnappings on the May's eve of a young woman is not unknown, but the thought that one would wish to take my boy fills me with apprehension. I write this as Gregoire heads to town, rousing those as may be good for a search despite the common May eve tradition with strong liquor. Word has also been sent to a second cousin of Caron's of the passing, that she and her daughters may sit with the body while I join the search.
Derog hadn't thought there were this many hours left in the night, but as he walked the sun showed no sign of rising. Chill and exhaustion sapped even the former high spirits and enthusiasm of earlier, and his sight was foggy with fatigue. He stumbled, and dropped down to a knee. He took a few moments to catch his breath. It fogged out with the humidity, and in the silence he heard the distinctive rumble of water. It had to be the Taff.
He turned towards the noise, but immediately the rose bit into his hand. He tried to ignore it, but as he continued the thorns dug deeper. He tried sticking it in a pocket, but the enchanted thorns seemed capable of moving through the layers as if they weren't there. Weeping with confusion and frustration Derog turned until the thorns relaxed. He made it perhaps another half mile before he found himself on the ground. He couldn't quite recall how he had gotten there, but had the vague feeling he had fallen. Despite the fact he was lying upon wet, sticky leaves smeared with mud, it was the most comfortable bed he had ever lay in. He planned to get up, but a few moments more wouldn't hurt. An hour later the rain continued to patter off of his sodden clothes, and rivulets ran detours about him, yet still he lay.
Derog awoke choking. He thought it was upon his own vomit, but this was far more foul. His stomach lurched and burned simultaneously, but a crushing pressure constricted his throat, and for a moment he could not breathe. He tried to thrash, but was so weak he could barely lift his head. His vision swam with nausea and then suddenly the pressure was gone. He took a deep, shuddering breath and tried to focus his eyes. It was extremely dim, but out of the corner of his eye a great shadowed mass moved away.
Strength seemed to return as the burning sickness of the draught crept from his stomach to seep into his limbs. After several moments Derog managed to sit up, pushing off something fluffy that smelt of moldy sheepskin. He looked about and blinked. He was in a tiny room with a hard packed dirt floor. The roof was also dirt, and dried herbs and flowers hung from it on threads. On the far end end of the room, no more than ten feet away, was a rough clay hearth which provided the only illumination. A short, rough cut table sat in the middle, supporting a number of misshapen clay jugs and bowls that held everything from flowers to bones. The wall he leaned against was old stone, inexpertly stacked and held together with a rubbery mortar smelling of manure and honey. If not for his close proximity he wouldn't have noticed, for the smell of the spring grove flowers overpowered all but the most pungent scents. It was even more concentrated than any area of the festival, and reminded him unpleasantly of the tree giant's pipe.
The tree giant. Taking a shuddering breath, the previous night flooded into his mind. A specific memory made his heart lurch. The nymff. So girlish and un-aged, so utterly perfect and... he remembered. Every detail. Every facet of a beauty beyond gems. She had either been playing a jest, or his devotion had guarded against forgetfulness. He opened his hand, and in it was the little wild rose. Instead of being crushed and wilted it appeared just as vigorous and healthy as when it had been plucked.
“Surely a precious thing you carry there.” a voice with a faint Irish accent said from nearby the hearth, followed by the sound of grinding. So high and sing-song was the voice's pitch that it could have been either man or woman. So rough it might have been a beast speaking.
Then he saw a twitch of movement. What Derog had taken to be a pile of wool was a figure sitting on the floor, hunched over so that its knees nearly came to the top of its hooded head.
It reached out a long, slender hand to the table and took some grit from a bowl. It sprinkled the rough powder liberally within a mortar and then began to grind it with vigor.
“Where is this?” Derog asked, leaning in to see the face, though the hood obscured all but the tip of a nose.
“You do not know?” the voice said again.
“You do not know of Barri? Good, very good. I will not trouble you then. It is the place you were brought to out of the wet.”
Derog glanced about nervously. There was something about the figure that set him on edge despite the soothing qualities of its voice, yet was also in a way fascinating. Derog took a step closer. He had thought the wool dyed a grey-green, but saw it was actually lichens and mildew that gave it its hue. A unnerving, musty smell emanated from the figure, like that of a forgotten cellar, or the soil under an overturned rock, but multiplied many times. That it could be smelled despite the floral scent was a feat unto itself.
“What was it you gave me to drink?” Derog inquired, seeking to add anything to the morbid silence of the home.
“I thought you could do with some calm. Brew it on my own. Elfshot I call it.” the hood replied, and then tittered as if it had made a particularly witty joke.
Derog turned about the room to see the face. He almost gasped. From the surroundings and voice he had expected some hermit or the wizened visage of a grandmother. Concentrating on his grinding however was a man no more than thirty, and seemed younger. More to the point, he was beautiful. Derog hadn't seen many men who fitted that description, but there it was before him. The face was thin, almost to the point of gauntness, and the downcast eyes set deep into their sockets, with dark circles, but still the face as a whole was incredibly regular and strong. In the low light he couldn't make out most details, but this fellow had almost no traces of disease or unhealth. Still, to Derog's eye he could trace them, but they were uncommonly faint. Even less so than a child's.
Then the man shifted his head. His lip was cleft like some sort of animal, but so evenly it wasn't readily noticeable. It didn't diminish his appearance, though it did cast an unnerving quality upon it. With an insight that momentarily surprised Derog, he knew this figure was associated with the other realm. The flowers, the sickening sweet taste of their berries on his lips from the drink, the smell that permeated the room. In the intuition he knew to trust, there was a distinct hint of the other here.
Suddenly the man's eyes looked up and regarded him with a look of cunning and angry surprise. Derog's thoughts immediately back-pedaled. This was not a creature of the Otherworld. Or at least not his Lady's. In the gaze before him was a malicious mischief beyond even the tree giant's. Still, they were undoubtedly human.
These eyes saw to his discomfort and seemed to laugh at them. The fear Derog had instinctively felt turned unexpectedly to anger at the man's arrogance.
“What were you doing on my hills, man-child?” Barri asked, cocking his head to the side.
“What are you doing in this land, fae-friend?” Derog countered.
Barri's brow furled and the pestle clattered into the bowl.
“Crave pardon?” he asked haughtily, though Derog was sure he heard a quiver in the voice.
Derog simply opened his hand to show the otherworldly rose.
It was immensely satisfying for Derog to watch the man pale and seem to drawn into himself. Then another thought followed. This Barri had been bluffing him.
The arrogance, the smile, they had hidden the crushing inferiority and fear that were now showing through Barri's bestial gaze. This house and clothing weren't his choice, they were a sign of his self contempt. Of his own fear. He had not only hidden himself from Derog's eye, but made the boy believe in the mask. Derog simultaneously felt both contempt and admiration for this wool-clad man.
“Where did you come across that?” Barri asked fearfully, all pretense at superiority having evaporated.
“I think we both know where.” Derog replied.
“Did they send you?”
Now it was Derog's turn to be confused, but then he turned thoughtful. The rose had lead him in this direction. Chance or design?
“I don't know. “ he answered after a moment, and a bit of the terror left Barri's eyes.
“You don't know. Well, that's reassuring.” Barri answered with sincerity.
Eyes darting about, Barri stood. It was like watching a sail unfurl. The man was nearly seven foot tall, Derog realized. The head nearly brushed the rafters that supported the sod roof. Still, there was a cringing look to him.
He began to gather the hanging herbs, sniffing each quickly before crushing them. A warbling, almost howling song he started to sing. He abruptly grabbed a sharpened sliver of bone and Derog backed away. Instead of attack the man chopped off his song with a snap of his teeth and slit his own wrist. He held the streaming hand over the spring flowers and allowed the blood to drench them. The bowl was then hurled into the fire. Smoke filled the room, making it difficult to breathe or see.
“If you are not they, to which realm did they steal you away?” Barri's voice said through the smoke. “Do you have a twinning? Does your double know you're here sitting?”
“My what? They didn't take me. I... think I brought them to me actually.” Derog responded.
There was a surprised intake of breath, followed by a rant of words in a language that sounded much like that the Lady had spoken, though more more vicious sounding. Like some beast trying to sing.
Abruptly Derog was flung into the pile of furs where he had slept. Despite his careful listening he had had no warning that the man had been behind him. There was the sound of stone rubbing against stone and a faint breeze blew, drawing the smoke out of the room.
Barri grabbed a pot off a shelf with his good hand and dipped it in. He pulled out a large glob of something black and tar-like, then proceeded to slather it across his self-inflicted wound. He then bound it with a strip of wool.
“You've never been to the realms of the Unseelie?” he said, stepping forward and looming over Derog. “They did not take you as a babe?”
“Is that supposed to be a natural assumption?” Derog asked with a scowl, looking up into the man's eyes from the lumpy bed.
“Answer what I ask.” Barri demanded, his hand still clenched to the knife, but it visibly trembled and the wild, desperate look remained to him.
“NO! I didn't even know these things of song and tale was real until last night.”
“Are you very certain? From the moment I saw you I thought that there might be a touch of the devils to you.”
“They aren't devils, they're beautiful and kind!” Derog exclaimed, surprising himself with how vehemently he felt he should take up for the Lady.
He then thought of the tree giant. “Well, some of them...” he muttered.
Barri eyed him with a look still wild and desperate, “They can make you see what they like. You cannot make conjecture!”
“Not Her!” Derog said, his hands clenching into fists until the rose dug into his palm. “She was a good one. One of the... what did Gridge call them, the Tylwyth Teg.”
Barri sat down heavily, the knife clambering upon the floor. He hugged his knees to himself.
“Thats good. That's good then. They're still about. Had worried, thought they might have closed themselves off, that's very good.” he mumbled.
He then leaned back, and wiped away the cold sweat that had formed on his head.
“Close themselves off?” Derog said, stepping to stand before him. He'd rather die than be separated forever from the Lady. “From what?”
“Lets swap some tale and song.” Barri said, looking at him with eyes now much calmer. “Show me your pretty flower.”
Derog's mouth firmed grimly.
“I won't take it. I couldn't before, remember?” Barri said, and there was a note of honesty to it, for what that might be worth.
Reluctantly Derog held it out.
“You seen a rosebud I'm certain. All closed up, mmm? The ants, they scurry around it, but no getting inside, right? Then the sun comes, warms it, and the bud blossoms. It's bigger than the outside within, but all folded up, like the petals. We here are on the outside, but there is more to it. The other worlds, the fae realms. They live inside the petals, or on the edges where they overlap. I was taken and trapped inside.”
Barri shuddered and snapped his teeth.
“And not inside the place of your sweet Teggies either. The Unseelie took me from the cradle. You say you never been to their realm, so I won't try to tell you. Must experience it and that is one thing you never want to do. You have heard of Hell, well, I cannot believe it it be any worse. I was a damned PET.” he yelled, but then his voice grew ever so soft. “I escaped though. I got out not but a few years older than you. I found that changeling as they'd replaced me with. Made your bile rise to look upon, you've ever seen. Brained it in the night and boiled it in a pot. Only way to get rid of them. Never forgot how it screamed. HA!”
Derog simply nodded but inside he felt a little sick. This man was a coward, a dog beaten one too many times, and then some. From such cowardice a man might do anything.
“Tried to explain to those as birthed me, let them know what had taken place. They had me run out of town! Would not hear a word of it. Left alone, not even a farthing to my name. I tried to join a monastery. As a monk. Thought any place them unseelie couldn't go would be safest. Did fine for a time, took my vows as was needed, but in the end they thought I was possessed. A warlock other said. A cursed, unholy spawn said others. Did not hold with what I'd learned from that land of shadow and specter. I wandered for a time did I. A long, long wandering.”
He trailed off, and for a moment was silent. He then spoke up, as if recalling.
“Before then, when I was still a monk, I had attended a wake. A party for a great man amongst men. I saw there a someone. A witch mayhap. They whispered. Said she was able to take in the sins of the dying. They called she a 'sin-eater'. Talked to she after. She said she left them clean so the devil wouldn't want them. Kept them from rising up and walking after. No sins, no restless spiriting.”
Barri cast a sidelong look at Derog. “They would pay her. Then feed a meal off the cold body. So little reward for such a noble undertaking. After I ran from the monastery I sought to learn the method. Looked about for those in need of such service.”
“You can put them to rest, ghosts? Derog said, interrupting the flood that was pouring out of the man from years of pent up emotion and no believing ears to hear it.
“Just so. Leastwise never had sightings after.” Barri replied cautiously.
“How would you like a good meal?” asked Derog thoughtfully.
Barri and Derog arrived mid-morning at the manor. Many hoof prints had turned up the muddy ground, and only then had Derog realized how he might have worried the household. The extraordinary events of the night had pushed all such mundane concerns from his mind.
Gridge was not in the garden or tending the garden, so he motioned for Barri to remain outside as he went in. The manor had been unpleasantly muted since his mam had taken ill, but now there was the undercurrent of bustle. Clankings in the kitchen, the sound of footsteps and the background murmur of voices.
“I'm back!” he called. “Hello?”
“Derog?” a voice called from his mother's sick room.
A plump young woman with long, braided brown hair took a step out and then ran up to him, grabbing him in a hug.
“Spirits be praised!” she exclaimed, stepping away. “You're father has the town searching for you, convinced you've been kidnapped or drowned!”
“Do I look drowned?” Derog asked, innocence in his tone.
“Don't be daft with me.”
“No, I wasn't kidnapped.” he responded. At least, not to begin with, he thought to himself.
He looked the woman in the eye. If his mam had been a believer in spirits and sprites, Lowri was a fanatic. It was this reason Dawe had always made sure to perform rounds of the countryside during her extended visitations, and rarely joined Caron on reciprocal stays. This was utterly ideal! She wouldn't mock him and would likely encourage it.
Lowri held his hand and looked to be nerving herself. At last she said, “Derog, do you know about your mam?”
Derog nodded and leaned in, “Do you?”
Together they sat in the main room, and Derog told her of his seeing of his mother's spirit. He left out the details however, especially those after he had fled, except for his meeting of Barri. At the mention of his name however the woman paled.
“Barri Skoller, oh, were it not come to he.” Lowri breathed. “Your poor dear mam. So restless, and on a May eve. Would that the two had not conjoined so.”
“But still, that sin-eater is an evil, evil man.” she exclaimed. “His like give their soul to the Opponent! With all that he is taken in from others he is naught but a walking curse.”
“If he can help though...' Derog said, trailing off meaningfully.
Lowri firmed her lips.
“Your grandfather would have burned that man to cinders rather than let him in.” she said sternly, but then softened. “But then, this is for your mam. Let's get this over with, but don't let him set foot in here. He'll have his meal, but he won't be attracting no curse to this house on top of it. “
Lowri led him into the sick room which was in the process of being prepared to accept visitors. The bed had been covered with the spring flowers, and his mam's hair carefully brushed. The signs of her strain had lessened, but for those that had known her they were as obvious as an open wound. Lowri watched him with a searching expression, and he realized he felt very little in regards to his passing. Before his heart may have broken, but it now belonged to that wild woman of the forest. All that was left here was the mask, with no face behind it. Still, it was expected he show something, so he paused to look at her and allowed his expression to harden.
Lowri, obviously satisfied, went over and opened one of the windows.
“You out there!” she called, and in a few moments Barri came around from the back of the house.
The smell upon leaving the sin-eater's home had been diminished in the open air, but still the scent was overpowering and unnerving. It brought to mind hidden holes and deep wells. Still, when he smiled Lowri's eyes widened and her hands trembled slightly. She seemed to be trying to speak, but from the smell or shock at his otherworldly allure, was left wordless.
Barri bowed low, and smiled his ironic smile.
“A loaf of bread with a hair for each year of her age. A pint of mead with a drop of her blood. A leg of mutton kissed by her lips.” he said, as if responding to a question. “That will be all.”
Lowri looked at him longingly for a moment. The she shuddered and held her hand to her stomach. She fairly ran from the room.
“Is all that necessary?” Derog asked, feeling a bout of queasiness himself. “And might the crab come to you?”
Barri spread his hands, “Never had a day of illness.”
He then leaned in to glance at Caron's rigid form. His eyes widened and he nodded in an appreciative way that made Derog wish, not for the first time that day, to strike off his head.
“Show me down to your medd.” Barri said in a strange tone. No arrogance, just authority.
Derog took the sin-eater around the manor and unlocked the padlock on the double doors set in the shaded northern wall. He lit a lantern, but Barri disdained it. The sin-eater strolled down the bricked arches of the tunnel that led into the cavernous cellars beneath the manor, seeming to be unimpeded by the dark. Derog had always found the medd cellar with its honey-combed walls and bricklaying of ancient design to be subtly forbidding, and not just because it was the exclusive domain of Gridge. In contrast, Barri seemed delighted with the surroundings.
“Right below her.” he muttered as he stared at the ceiling. With that he began to sing in a language that seemed to include both latin and the bestial unseelie speech.
As he chanted, Derog peered about at the labels of the bottles set in the wall. One almost immediately caught his eye. 1746 -- his mother's year of birth. Something told him it would be appropriate.
Barri suddenly halted mid-chant. He turned this way and that, sniffing. In the silence Derog heard a very faint pattering, like a drizzling rain on stone.
“Where's a shovel?” Barri asked, wariness back in his voice.
Derog glanced around and jerked back against the wall. Harvestman were pouring out from nooks, crannies and combs by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, on their long, arced legs. Derog had been told that they were the most poisonous of all spiders. Gridge had laughed at him while young, at his fear of the cellar-loving arachnids. Said they were harmless. With the frantic, determined way they were closing in on Barri however, Derog's old dread returned.
Barri's concern didn't seem to be caused by the swarm, but instead was peering into the darkest areas of the cellar. As the long-legged vermin began to crawl up him he went dead still, eyes closed and head lifted. In a few moments he was enveloped. He then made a sudden gesture and growled in his chest. The crawling mass went rigid, pulling away from mouth and eyes while interlocking legs into a solid mass.
“I have joined the Great Conflict!” Barri all but wailed. “And my task is through it. You have no sway, Guardian!”
“This home was built on unclaimed soil, on the borders of our Hedge!” a nasal, wheezy voice screeched. “You cannot claim it! Take yourself out!”
“I will not, there are duties to perform. I claim it this day, until the sun sets. You are of earth, not of fire, and have no power in the coming noon!”
“Take yourself out!”
“Get thee gone!” Barri roared back, and the scent of mold became unbearable.
“She must be allowed to speak! Take yourself out!”
Derog raced up the ramp with the lantern and ran for the shed. He quickly grabbed a trenching tool. Down in the darkness it sounded like a pack of fighting dogs. Derog leaned down and slid the shovel hard down the ramp.
“Heed the cold iron of men, blight of the cellar!” Barri's voice growled.
There was a child-like scream and the sound of metal clanging off of wood and the shattering of glass. Then all was quiet.
Derog took a steadying breath and ran down. As his lantern light spread out there was a movement out of the corner of his eye. Jerking around his head, Derog caught the sight of a pair of feet diving down a small burrow revealed amongst some crumbled bricks. Barri seemed to fade out of the shadows. He shoved the tool head into the burrow and twisted. With that the ceiling of the hole fell in. Barri reached down, shoving brick fragments within and with the flat of the shovel packed it in.
He was breathing heavily, and for a moment Derog's lamp were reflected redly in the sin-eater's eyes. He handed the shovel back to Derog without a word. The spiders slowly climbed off and in a small swarm disappeared back into the nooks and crannies of the cellar.
“What was that?” Derog finally asked.
“One of your friendly Teggies.” Barri said, and spat at the wall.
“He was guarding your mead. Might want to apologize to him later or he might sour the whole batch. They like turnips.” he continued, a cheerful tone coming to his voice. It seemed the task of turning out the little spirit had brightened his mood.
“Why was he here?” Derog said, with eyes wide. He wondered how many still lurked in the manor,
hiding in the out of the way places.
“Someone invited him in.” Barri replied with a sneer. “Go check for my meal, I do not wish to remain where they are given freedom to roam.”
Derog was more than glad to be up and out of the dark.
He didn't have to wait long.
“You be careful about that sin-eater, Derog. I've heard of those as do this, but this fellow sits wrong with me more than any man or woman I've ever known. Have him do it quick-like and begone.” Lowri said softly as unstopped the cask of medd and poured a thimble-full of dark liquid within its neck. She shook it and then poured the mixture into a bowl. “I feel unclean with this business, and to think of him drinking your mam's cold blood.”
Derog wasn't happy either, but gave his aunt a reassuring smile before turning to walk back outdoors.
He thought he heard voices from down below as he approached the ramp, but when he came down there was none but Barri.
“Ahh!” the sin-eater breathed as Derog descended with the heavy tray.
Barri took the tray and balanced it on his knees as he sat upon a small barrel. He leaned in and took a sniff. As fleshless as he was, Derog was sure he was hungry, but the look in his eye and his posture seemed more excited than ravenous.
He lifted the bowl of medd and dipped his tongue in, his eyes closing in pleasure. He held it up and bowed slightly.
“This I do in remembrance of you.” he said softly, with a hint of a smirk.
He set into the bread without cutting it or touching it with utensils. He licked around the mutton, taking off the juices before finally biting in. He seemed to be murmuring obscenities and curses in an undertone the entire while he ate. Derog felt uneasy, and the nausea returned as he watched the man feast in a languid, sensual manner.
Finally, and with seeming reluctance, Barri took the last swig from the bowl and ran his tongue along the inner rim. Then with a wordless shout he stood and hurled the bowl to the ground, shattering it.
The ground seemed to shudder with its impact, far more so than a clay bowl should have, and Derog felt a wave of sadness wash over and through him. Then there was nothing.
Barri on the other hand had a curious express on his face. He turned and dry-wretched for almost a minute, fighting to keep down the meal. He finally stood up straight, panting slightly.
“Is that it?” Derog asked warily.
“Well, I also usually get sixpence.” Barri said, rubbing a shard of pottery into the ground with the ball of his foot as if it were a particularly noisome insect. He had a satiated, gloating look to him as he wiped his mouth on a sleeve.
Derog looked about for the newest vintages of mead and took a small bottle. He handed it to Barri who grinned wide with teeth far too sharp and white.
As they ascended, Derog called Barri's name, who turned with a questioning look.
“You ate it didn't you.” Derog said bluntly. “The changeling.”
It was not a question.
“The masquerading bastard that stole away my life? You can be assured!” the man said vehemently, baring his teeth with the memory.
“And thought you might do so again, right? That's why you gave me that liquor?”
Barri just looked at him.
“I've heard that now and again someone tries to distill the berries despite their taste. Try to re-flavor it. But those that do never walk again do they, Barri? Its poison.” Derog continued. “Elfshot. Very clever. Also surprised when I stood up weren't you?”
“That's what becomes of them as crosses my path uninvited.” Barri replied, the wild look coming back into his eye.
“And the sin eating?” Derog questioned, stepping forward. Connections were forming as he spoke, as if cause and effect was blooming in his mind. It was like how his drawings would come together, each stroke feeling right, and leading up to a work of art. Now, with each word, a different kind of picture was being sketched with its own kind of harmonious completeness. All the random shades, blending together into the underlying truth. It was strangely beautiful.
“I NEED those sins.” Barri hissed. “I am not going back to the Unseelie lands. I'd rather the Devil himself hold me down. I'm not fit for Heaven, but maybe that Old Goat will be strong enough to wrench my soul from them. They HAVE it, and won't let me die. Once their pet, always a pet. But it won't be them. I've the dark deeds of thirty-eight, not mentioning my own. Oh yes, he cannot ignore that! Two hundred years I've hid in my hole, and one day I'll be ready for death. For my escape.”
Derog studied the man who claimed to be centuries old. Gazed into overlarge pupils that were now fully dilated. The madness that the Unseelie must have unlocked was formidable. Mad or not, Derog could only hope the man had put his mam to rest.
“Alright Barri. Mayhap you shouldn't have admitted to me such though. You've got the blackness in you, but how many others have you eaten not just the sins of, hmm? Not many folks would like knowing we have a sin eater that also eats the sinner.”
Barri took a step forward, his expression dangerously frightened, his fingers hooked into claws.
“No, no, look.” Derog replied, and held up the rose. “The Otherworld favors me. Keep that in mind. I'm going to find her, and if I need help in that you'll aid me. You know things. Maybe I'll put in a good word.”
Relief was apparent on Barri's flawless, snarling face, but also a look of angry sullenness.
“You sure you were not born of the Unseelie?” he said in a flat voice.
“I prefer the Tylwyth Teg.”
Barri flared his nostrils and turned to head down the hill.
“Barri.” Derog called again, a thought coming to him.
“What?” Barri said without turning.
“What do you know of water children?”
“Never heard of them.” he said in that same dead tone. His eyes then focused on the flower with a feral wariness. “Though I might ask myself why that rose looks so fresh. Their little spells rarely last passed the morning after.”
Derog opened his palm and eyed the blossom, still swollen with beauty and even glistening with dew. His thoughts began to whirl. When he looked up Barri was nowhere to be seen.
Caron. I first met her in this very house. Though I was born in London, this town is where both my parents were born. They brought me around my sixteenth year to visit and see my heritage. I was apprenticed to my father, and eager to prove that I knew more than he. I had heard of the famous Craig brewery and the medicinal properties said to be contained within their liquors. Wishing to dismiss such claims I journeyed here to sample the miracles for myself. It was in the gardens as I passed that I heard a singing that would have rivaled the celestial choir. I was not fluent in the welsh tongue, but the mysterious lyrics behind that melody only drew me. There I found her holding a young rabbit that she has rescued from a snare and hoped to return to health. She was serenading to it, cuddling it to her breast. Such kindness and contentment did I see in that gaze, in the trust the pup showed as it slept in her embrace. Care of animal and child was her gift, as I hope it shows in the character of our son, Derog. As I finished my apprenticeship I asked for her hand. She refused, saying it would be all of her or nothing. I accepted this requirement gladly and for these dozen years such contentment have I known that it feels only a day has passed. That was what Caron did, she brought happiness to all that knew her. Let us feel gladness instead of sorrow as she leaves, for she has escaped her pain and awaits us. This is a day of life, so let's celebrate those of us that still live.
Derog hardly heard the words his father spoke during his mam's wake. His soul felt parched by his draining depression. Those about him naturally tied it with the passing of his mother, but that hurt was a long time ache that he felt would eventually pass. It was now but a twinge compared to this pain. Of another loss.
The hunting party had returned the night before, and Derog had explained away his disappearance by explaining his fear at seeing her body and getting lost in the dark. The shattered pane was by the wind. All of it was a shade of the truth, and thus he could allow his tale to be said with sincerity.
His father was so relieved that nothing more sinister than that had occurred that he felt little inclination to question it. Gridge however peered out from under his eyebrows and Derog could see the skepticism in his gaze. He said nothing, of the tale or his missing medd, but Derog could feel his doubting presence each time he passed.
The searchers had been invited to stay for the night in the manor and on the morrow a wake would be held. Derog knew Dawe would have preferred a quiet ceremony, but he also knew Caron would have enjoyed a gathering of her friends and neighbors.
The morning before he had slipped out after a night devoid of any nocturnal visitations. He turned southeast as he had the previous night, towards the distant Taff. This time he rode on horseback, careful not to alarm the other horses that'd been kept in the stable. He was heading away when a figure stepped out from behind the garden wall. It was Gridge, who despite copious drinking with the searchers the previous night was up with dawn. He had a shovel in hand and a stony expression upon his face.
Derog took a deep breath.
"Bore da." he said. "After the search shouldn't you be sleeping off the medd?"
Gridge worked his jaw a moment then finally said, "Digging graves for the young isn't something you wish to do sober."
He took a step forward.
"Though tweren't so oggled as to try with my hands. Took me awhile to find the shovel. How'd it get with the medd I wondered. Don't recall my digging in the cellar last night." he said grimly. "So I'm done trying to recall. You aid my memory. What was it doing down there?"
Mentally Derog cursed. His thoughts had been leagues away after Barri had left. He'd completely forgotten the shovel.
"'n don't give me some bairn's tale. You know what you were about."
As Derog's mind raced, trying to think up a response, his eye idly traced the landscape out beyond the hill. What he saw came to the front of his mind, wiping out the stuttering response he had planned. From the start of the mountains to the north to the cut of the valleys and the rise of the moors, there was something being outlined. The green of the grass shaped and the stone accentuated. It all came together, a pattern so intricate it left him speechless, yet obvious as a rushing river. How had he never seen it? The land itself seemed to be speaking to him, pointing a way.
"Derog?" a voice suddenly said by his ear. Derog jerked in surprised. He hadn't even noticed Gridge walking up to him. "Where are you at, lad?"
"It's there. It's all there." he whispered, spreading his hand to encompass the landscape.
Gridge turned his scowl to the horizon.
"I think your tyta better have a look at that fool head." he said gruffly, concern warring with the anger in his voice.
"It'll take me to her." Derog breathed, forgetting Gridge before him.
With that he kicked his heels against his mount's ribs and the horse galloped forward. Cursing and shouting after him, Gridge could only watch as he headed down.
He followed the path that lay before him for the next several hours. To those that passed it seemed he himself an awkward, convoluted route, yet for the boy it felt straight, and the land about him curved to fit.
He came upon the hill far from any farm or even a hunter's cabin. The horse began to start at nothing, whites showing in its eyes. Then it planted its feet like a mule and no manner of coaxing could move the mount up it. Resigned to walk, he began the long hike up, pushing through the groves that ringed its base and stumbling about the marshy ground. He almost expected to see red eyes before him, but nothing showed itself, not even the buzz of a mosquito.
Finally he pushed through the grove to rubble and heath. Eventually he came to the top. There was the obelisk, though the moss seemed to have grown back upon it in the night. In the daylight it no longer seemed so otherworldly, but felt natural. It was the pinnacle upon which several of the strange path-lines in the landscape met.
There was no trace there had ever been anything here, though large, fleshy mushrooms were pushing up from soil that no longer seemed rocky, but thick and rich. The trees that had been brought back to life however were missing, as were the burrows they had torn.
Derog called for an hour, dug in the soil and kicked over mushrooms, but to no avail. Finally he approached the obelisk and rammed his head against it, breaking the scab that had formed upon his forehead. It bled on the moss freely and ran down his face. He ripped off the moss, smearing it liberally about the bare stone which now showed no sign of rune. He pressed at the wound to continue the flow to give more blood, but though he waited, nothing came of it.
Beside himself with grief and longing he turned back down the hill and let the horse find its way back.
The wail of a child rose high enough to snap Derog out of miasma of memory. His father paused a moment and then raised his voice to continue, but the babe seemed determined to make him inaudible. Many mothers had come to the wake and brought with them young ones that Caron herself had delivered. With an irritability borne out of his frustrations, he snapped his head to glare at it.
It was a girl of almost two, far old enough to be silenced by its mother. The parent however just rocked it back and forth with an expression of despair. The child might have been called stunning by a casual observer, with thick red ringlets and pale green eyes, but there was an expression as it screamed that seemed both cruel and bored. To Derog's eye there was something off with it, something almost sinister.
The babe then suddenly stopped as it noticed his attention. She narrowed her eyes and opened a mouth already possessing a full compliment of small, shiny teeth. It took a breath and gave the most piercing scream yet. Finally the mother excused herself to a corner and with a blanket draped across her began to nurse it despite its years. She then abruptly cried out in startled pain. The toddler pushed the blanket away with a tantrum. Before the mother could pull it back he saw her breast smeared with blood. The toddler turned to stare right at him. She grinned, blood streaking her lips.
Derog turned his head back around, but the hairs were rising on the back of his neck. 'That child was not what it seemed' was the warning his insight whispered. The words of Barri came back to him. Children that were not children. Infants of the Unseelie snuck into human cribs. Could this be such a one?
By this time Dawe had obviously decided to bring his memorial speech to a close, as all lifted drinks to their departed daughter of Nwmenaidd. Others then began to tell their memories of Caron, as others milled about the food and drink swapping talk and laughter.
When the crowd about Derog had cleared, the mother of the biting beast had already moved away.
They buried Caron in the private graveyard on the northwest edges of the Craig lands. In other cities influential families often had mausoleums, or were given a place of honor within a church's hallowed grounds. In Nwmenaidd not even a coffin was used. She was lowered down within a sheet, a corner taken by Dawe, Derog, Gridge and one of Lowri's sons. Caron was clothed in a white gown, and flowers were braided in her hair.
Her mother, father, and grandparents all had been buried here, though no marker indicated where they lay. Instead it almost resembled an orchard, with each of the family having a tree planted over them.
As Dawe watched on solemnly, Gridge tossed in each corner so that her bluing face was hidden. He then began to shovel. The townsfolk sang a song in an ancient form of welsh Derog hadn't heard since his grandfather had passed. It sounded joyous and mirthful, and with the aid of the brilliant sunshine and smell of living things it was obviously intended to ease the mind of the grieved. Lowri however had been granted the honor to be the mourner by Dawe and she let out a horrible keening of sorrow and loss, screaming to the dead soul as she tore lanks of hair from her head. The song and wail, it somehow didn't seem incongruous. It instead joined together to become all that defined the human condition. Pain and peace, joy and sorrow, magic and mortality.
When the mound had been packed down Derog tossed his indigo rose upon the mound. For three days he had gripped or worn it, and never had it shriveled or showed any signs of death. It seemed the only thing that still lived. Both his mother and his dreams had died within a single day.
They stayed several more days to pack away Caron's belonging and give out what they knew she would have wished to gift. Derog actually saw tears in Gridge's eyes as he was handed a small hand-carved flute. He stared down at it for several minutes.
"The lass never got the hang of it. I'd thought she'd tossed it away long ago." he had finally said.
Dawe laid a hand on the old man's shoulder for a moment, "Caron never threw away anything of value."
It was understood that Derog had inherited the estates, being the last direct line of the Craigs. Dawe misinterpreted Derog's expression when he was told.
"Someday you will be grateful for it." Dawe said.
"And I'll keep it ready for ye." Gridge said neutrally.
"I'd like to come back each summer." Derog responded.
Dawe nodded. "I think that can be managed."
A carriage from London pulled up shortly thereafter with a weary looking driver and wearier horses. Gridge hitched up a fresh pair and helped Derog load as the coachman was fixed a meal by Lowri.
An hour or so later they were giving their goodbyes. Gridge was having a private word with Dawe, as Lowri caught up the boy in a hug.
"Don't be forgetting us now." she said in an admonishing tone. "Nwmenaidd is in your blood, child. It'll call to you."
"I'll be coming around for May of each." Derog replied, hesitantly returning the embrace.
"Good, good. You can stay with my family you know. Not this empty manor housed by an old man."
"Lowrie, how would you like to stay here, you and your family? As you say, its big and empty."
Lowri's eyes widened and she began to shake her head.
"It'll need the upkeep. Gridge does the repairs, but he'd just assume stay in his keeper's house than come within." I think my mam would have liked it being filled up again."
Lowri closed her mouth and nodded.
Inwardly he smiled. That's one thing he knew she'd not be able to refute.
She looked him up and down.
"You're becoming a man, Derog." she said with a curious expression as Dawe approached the carriage.
Dawe put a hand on Derog's shoulder, "That he is."
As Dawe stepped into the carriage Derog leaned close to Lowri, "And if Barri shows himself again, you're welcome to burn him down."
Lowri's eyes went hard and she nodded, tapping her nose. Derog nodded back, and climbed within.
He glanced back at the manor, and Lowri lifted a hand. Beside her stood Gridge, arms crossed and silent.The The trip across Cymru took the next couple days, which Dawe used chiefly to sleep that of the exhausted and heart-weary. Derog however had eyes only for the scenery. The path he had taken was not just one it seemed, the natural flow showing signs of numerous ones as they passed over. It was odd however as they seemed to curved right around any human settlements. The only exception he found was Nwmenaidd, which the path had gone straight to the obelisks, through the middle of town and ending in the mossy hill where he had met his Lady.
His mood both waned and brightened as he recalled her. He dreamt of her that night at an inn which the travelers had halted at. He was sometimes trying to reach or speak with her, but never able to come near. He was like a spirit unable to affect the world. Her face too was difficult to recall. He didn't understand why, for every other aspect remained in startling clarity. Even in his dreams they were not so much hidden as obscured.
He tried to capture her in sketchings the following evening, though dusk was approaching and I would soon be too dim to continue. Curiously Dawe glanced over at his work and his eyes widened in appreciation.
"What manner of woman is that?" he inquired.
"I met her on May Eve." Derog replied with feigned distraction as he shaded her hair.
"This is so? I'd have thought such a beauty could only exist in one's imagination if indeed you capture her true. "
"She's not imaginary!" Derog snapped, looking up.
Dawe studied him with the clinical detachment he had learned to bring up in place of surprise. Derog was many things, but like himself quickness of anger was not a general trait. Then again, being motherless wasn't either. The two would both have to learn to handle the loss in their own way.
"Nor did I say she was." he replied cooly, returning the gaze. "It was intended as a compliment to both the artist and the lady."
"Sorry, Tyta." Derog replied formally.
"Mmm." Dawe murmured with a nod, and was sitting back in his chair when the horses whinnied, one bucking.
Glancing out, Derog saw the coachmen struggling with the reigns. He managed to get them under control, though they continued to snort and shake. The driver led them to the side and around some kind of obstruction.
They were at a cross-road. The one they were upon led through a stretch of woodlands, the dense canopy above shading their passing. The other ran parallel to the treeline. At the edge of the wood, where the two intersected, was a puddle of blood. As Derog watched another drip fell from above, adding to it. He glanced back as the horses continued past, squinting against the setting sun that was casting its rays directly across the trail. Tangled in the vines above was a snow-white hart, a rack of magnificent antlers sprouting from atop its head. It didn't seem to be harmed from this angle, the blood only issuing from its open mouth.
Though puzzled at how a deer would have ascended into the treetops, it wasn't that surreal spectacle that suddenly made him feel cold inside. He had the feeling of being watched. Glancing over at Dawe, the elder as well was peering out the window with a look of alertness.
Turning back to his own he felt rather than saw a movement. Leaning out the window to look back he felt his heart begin to beat faster. The hart had disappeared, as had the tangle it had been caught in. The sun then sunk below the horizon and the archway was cast into immediate gloom. For a split second Derog would have sworn he saw a long face atop what he had taken to be a tall, slender tree trunk with long, crooked limbs. He blinked against the spots that danced in his vision, but once they faded it was too dim to tell what he had seen, if anything.
He felt himself starting at the slightest movement and the horse's hooves sounded unnaturally loud in his ears.
Darkness settled for true and the coachman brought the horses to a stop so that he could light the lanterns. In the brief spark before the wick caught Derog saw a pair of thin trees growing from the middle of the road ahead. Trees with shoes. When the lantern finally flared the trunks had gone. For a moment Derog wondered if the tree giant had followed them, but this was different. There was no sweet scent of burning herbs, no eyes in the dark. Those legs, seeming clothed in tactile shadow had been no thicker than a normal man's but had reached up past the overhead trees. Far taller than the giant. Also, while the giant had been frightening, he was still something that Derog could assimilate. It had been brutal and bullying. This that he felt now was colder and alien. The entire situation tasted of it, if such a word could describe it. He didn't know if there was a definition for it, this sixth sense that was developing with all its frightening connotations.
"A moment." Dawe said out the window as the driver reached up to climb back to his seat. He stood, bending almost double, and stepped out of the door. He straightened, arching his back and rolling his shoulders.
"Too long in a carriage will hunch your back." he said, glancing back in the carriage. "Do you wish to stretch?"
Derog glanced up and down the trail and slowly stepped out. He stretched, and walked around to the horses. He'd often heard animals had great senses than man, and if there were anything about they'd be looking for it. It was with a horrible knot in his stomach that he saw the horse's eyes were glazed. Their nostrils didn't flare nor did they so much as twitch. They might have been dead if not for the steady rise and fall of their sides.
"They don't look too good." Derog ventured warily.
The driver glanced over and snorted dismissively, "Be about two hours before we come across the next inn, sirs."
"Then best we be off." Dawe said with a sigh.
Reluctant to be back in the carriage, reluctant to remain in the wood, Derog felt an agony of indecision. He stepped up and, once seated, closed his eyes and willed the ride to be over. He fell into a troubled sleep.
As slumber took Derog a shape stretched out behind the wagon, like a shadow lengthening in the setting sun, reaching for the wagon. Its arms stretched and stretched, arcing over the wagon top down to grab the reigns of the horses from the unresisting hands of the suddenly sleeping coachmen.
It was the cold that woke Derog. He was lying on his back amidst leaves by the side of the wagon The temperature itself was not particularly chilly, but within he felt frozen. A figure clothed in black was bent over beside him. It must have been thirty feet tall, and as slender as a sapling. The face was down on his level however peering into his, a horrible, expressionless blob of wan nothingness that glowed in the lamplight. Hundreds of arms, or perhaps tentacles began to rise from its back and reached out to surround the boy. Derog felt paralyzed as it enveloped him. Something beyond fear had gripped him, beyond terror. He welcomed whatever it might do to him. He would do anything for it. Just as long as it would promise to kill him soon. For the first time he thought he understood what they said when they said god-fearing. He would bow down and worship it, this that was master over his very soul. Derog reached up to embrace it when there was a whisper in the dark.
The slender man jerked its arm back as something struck it. An arrow of some kind protruded from the shoulder. No cry of pain was uttered, no drop of blood fell, but the figure raised a single leg and seemed to step out and over the forest.
The coldness began to fade and finally Derog could cry out in blind fear. The horses as well seemed to be coming out of the terrorized stupor. Derog barely had time to jumped back within before the horses began gallop. The door flailed back and forth as he curled into a fetal position upon the floor. The coachmen was thrown backwards with the momentum, slamming his head into the carriage. Dazedly he blinked and grabbed at the reigns. No matter how hard he pulled the horses would not stop, crazed and foaming. They hit a rut and Dawe was thrown up to the ceiling before falling atop his son.
Derog awoke in his parent's bed within their London home. The same bed where his mam had lay before being taken to Nwmenaidd. Disgust flooded through him, and he tried to leap off, but a stabbing pain drilled through his side. He gasped with the agony, but he felt faint of breath, and a deeper inhalation only aggravated the pain.
Pulled down the sheet he saw this his lower chest had been tightly bound. Gingerly he pressed on them and winced. He wondered how he had gotten here, and what had happened. Something niggled at his mind, like a dream that stayed just deep enough to remain hidden.
A hand then reached out to his shoulder, and Derog screamed as the memory returned. Of the slender man and his impossible reach. Derog tried to leap out of bed, but as he finished screaming he realized he couldn't breathe. The hand reached down from Derog's shoulder to the boy's chest and performed some maneuver. Derog felt his bones might break, but abruptly he felt his lungs filling again. He chocked and coughed for several moments before lying back in complete exhaustion.
"Derog! Son, lie still." his father's voice said sternly. "You have a broken rib and if you thrash you may drive it closer to the lung."
Derog looked up to his father's face, the anxiety warring with clinical detachment.
"My... bed." Derog gasped out.
"You needed attending, and traipsing up to the attic every night would not be sensible." Dawe replied in exasperation.
"Mam's sick bed..."
Dawe looked at him blankly, then his eyes softened.
"It's alright, she wouldn't mind." he replied, utterly misinterpreting Derog's concern.
"The crab!" he wheezed.
The look immediately hardened.
"Derog Feddyg, your mother was a wondrous woman, and reluctant am I to criticize her, but she gave you ideas that have rooted a little too well. While very ill, her condition was not communicable. Do not worry over catching it. There. Is. No. Crab." he said, clearly and without a raise in his voice. Despite this Derog could tell he was on the borders of his temper. With that the elder Feddyg stood and left the room.
Derog lie still for some time after, flinching each time he brushed a coverlet, sure he felt crawling legs upon his flesh. As much misery as his ribs were, another type of turmoil raged within his chest. What was true and what was not? His father was a learned, intelligent man. A genius even. He knew more than most could hope for. His mother seemed to know much as well, yet the two had never seen eye to eye on what was truth and what was legend.
He wondered what it all meant. Since the may's eve he had seen more oddities than the rest of his life bound together. Or did he only think they were odd? He knew his father had worked with those possessed of brain fevers who ranted and raved of creatures not there, of suffering pain without wound. Then the image of the lady came back to him, and of the rose he had gripped. Barri had seen it! He knew his imagination was fertile, and prided himself on it, but surely even the most febrile could not dream up anything that approached a creature such as she. The lines had led him to the hill as well. No dreams could have taken him without assuming that which was equally improbable.
Perhaps, he reasoned with an inner chillness, he was only now seeing what had always been there. The lady had opened his eyes in so many ways. He only feared what might now be shown him. What happened when you noticed things that were used to being unnoticed? Lifted their veil and exposed them? Was the world itself as much a lie as the people that dwelt upon it? He wondered what else he might inadvertently draw the attention of.
This is one of my rougher drafts that I'm not certain I'll keep as a chapter.
Everything before they leave for London is intended to be kept, but the run in with the Slender Man I'm concerned may be a little too much. Then again, its randomness is intended to show that he is now noticing things and in response being noticed back. I'm wanting the reader to wonder what is going on behind the scenes of the world, and do we want to peek into it even if we could?
The Slender Man and his attempt to take of the child is also a scene that I intend to explain within the second book of the series, Dark Waltzing. It will explain who rescued Derog and how.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2011, 08:22:02 PM by TheVorpalTribble »
That'll be enough. Appreciate your perusal.
Perhaps giving the characters and tale TvTrope categories will make the reading more interesting
Um... cool. Wait.
Anyway, it looks like you tried to use some unusual characters in that post - apart from á, à and their cousins they're not supported.
Also, spelling nitpick: "lightning" not "lightening" and "Church of England" not "church of England".
My workDeviantArtCurrent games
The tier system
in a nutshell:
A cartographer.Tier 5:
An expert cartographer or
a decent marksman.Tier 4:
An expert marksman.Tier 3:
An expert marksman, cartographer and chef who can tie strong knots and is trained in hostage negotiation or
a marksman so good he can shoot down every bullet fired by a minigun while armed with a rusted single-shot pistol that veers to the left.Tier 2:
Someone with teleportation, mind control, time manipulation, intangibility, the ability to turn into an exact duplicate of anything, or the ability to see into the future with perfect accuracy
Someone with teleportation, mind control, time manipulation, intangibility, the ability to turn into an exact duplicate of anything and
the ability to see into the future with perfect accuracy.
Added a tentative 4th chapter. Not decided if I plan to keep it.
Um... cool. Wait.
Gonna assume clapping means good. Does it read as a professional piece however?
Anyway, it looks like you tried to use some unusual characters in that post - apart from á, à and their cousins they're not supported.
Where did I use those characters?
Anyway, it looks like you tried to use some unusual characters in that post - apart from á, à and their cousins they're not supported.
Where did I use those characters?
They show up as question marks.
My workDeviantArtCurrent games
The tier system
in a nutshell:
A cartographer.Tier 5:
An expert cartographer or
a decent marksman.Tier 4:
An expert marksman.Tier 3:
An expert marksman, cartographer and chef who can tie strong knots and is trained in hostage negotiation or
a marksman so good he can shoot down every bullet fired by a minigun while armed with a rusted single-shot pistol that veers to the left.Tier 2:
Someone with teleportation, mind control, time manipulation, intangibility, the ability to turn into an exact duplicate of anything, or the ability to see into the future with perfect accuracy
Someone with teleportation, mind control, time manipulation, intangibility, the ability to turn into an exact duplicate of anything and
the ability to see into the future with perfect accuracy.
Been having very little time for being online of late. Anyone who wishes to read it, I have the first 8 chapters up on DeviantArt: http://karribi.deviantart.com/gallery/29944202
Have updated and smoothed out chapters 1-4 in the link, though 5-8 are still roughish.