Check out parts 1, 2, and 3. # The passage was perfectly black. Above me, the old man spoke, his voice too muffled for me to understand. There came a sharp response, followed by a
The passage was perfectly black. Above me, the old man spoke, his voice too muffled for me to understand. There came a sharp response, followed by a thud as something fell heavily to the floor.
They’re going to kill him.
I pushed against the trapdoor that hid me, but whatever was occurring upstairs had blocked that exit.
The old man spoke again, but this time his voice rumbled like thunder. There was a crack, followed by a wave of heat which forced me into the dirt.
A woman screamed in the room above me. Not a scream of fear, or surprise, or even rage. It was the high-pitched wail of agony. The scream that accompanies charred flesh and melted eyes. The scream the body saves until it knows there won’t be any others.
I shivered, despite the heat, as I realized how familiar the sound was to me.
The path led to my left so I followed it, stumbling in the dark. The heat faded as I moved farther and farther from the trapdoor. Shaken as I was from the dark glimpse into my past, I couldn’t tell how long I traversed the passage.
Eventually, the tunnel gave way to a larger room. As I stumbled across the threshold and onto the stone floor, the back of my hand began to burn. Around the room torches burst into flame, casting sudden shifting shadows where there had been only blackness.
In the center of the room was a small armory. Swords, axes, shields, spears, and at least two full sets of armor had been carefully laid out on a large blanket, though now everything was covered in a thick layer of dust.
Beyond the pile of weapons was an ancient-looking oak door. Next to that was an old sack. Old, but not as dusty as the rest of the room.
The old man’s supplies.
I crossed the room quickly and examined the contents of the sack. As promised, it was filled with provisions. Water skins, dried meat, some hard bread; nothing fancy, but probably enough to get me to Tirradon. There was also a small bag of coins.
I closed up the sack and turned my attention to the armory. I selected a set of worn leather armor and slipped it on. It was a little loose in some places and a bit tight in others, but it would serve until I could get it properly fitted.
I was adjusting my new helmet when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I grabbed the closest weapon and spun to face whatever else was in the room.
I was alone.
But on the walls the shadows had coalesced into the shape of a bull, standing atop a mountain. The image was reflected every few feet, so that no matter which direction I faced I could see it.
The shadows changed again, twisting into flames which danced across the walls. Two people rose out of the flames. The first grew and morphed into the shape of a great serpent. The second changed into a monstrous wolf.
Ishtir. The name sprang to my mind on its own.
Then the dancing flames shifted into rows of marching swords, following behind the wolf and the serpent. The bull on the mountain returned and breathed fire down upon them and the swords melted away to nothing. But the wolf and the snake remained.
The bull shook his head and stamped his feet, and the armor rattled as the whole room shook. Then the wolf and the serpent assailed the bull and the shadows mixed and writhed. The torches flickered, then went out; leaving me in darkness for a moment.
When the light returned, the shadow of the bull was gone. Now the wolf and the serpent sat atop the mountain and bore crowns upon their heads. Ishtir wore a crown of swords and the snake a crown of flames.
What is this place? My hand stopped hurting.
The shadows faded once more into the normal shifting pattern of torches. I belted a longsword around my waist and strapped a short-sword to the sack, which I through over my shoulder. I intended to leave that place of sorcery at once, but as I rose to go, the blanket caught my eye.
I quickly cleared the weapons and armor, revealing not a blanket but a banner. A great standard as might be seen decorating the walls of a castle. Centered on the banner was the image of a snake, wrapped around a blade, surrounded by a ring of fire.
Is this why the old man had taken me in? Fed me? Given his life for mine?
I stumbled back against the wall.
Who am I?
I had too many questions. The old man had said someone named Anasei would be waiting more me; maybe he could give me some answers. I grabbed my new pack and headed through the ancient door.
The tunnel brought me out into the open air near a clump of trees away from the farmers’ houses. The homes were now pillars of fire and smoke.
I couldn’t stay. I didn’t know how long my escape tunnel would go unnoticed, or even if anyone was actually looking for me, but the longer I stood and gawked the less likely I’d be able to escape.
I traveled east until nightfall. Without knowing how far away the city of Tirradon was, it made sense to stop and sleep. I set up a small camp, ate some dried meat, and did my best to ward myself from any wild creatures that might come by while I slept.
I awoke to the sound of arguing. Three warrior women stood over me. One held a sword in her hand, while the other two seemed less inclined to kill me in my sleep. They were beautiful, with features that could have been carved from stone. But their eyes were fierce.
And ravenous as wolves.
To Be Continued….