Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Solitary Crow - Elkall-Anuz - 8

The Pit and the Pendulum

The sun was too hot; in a metaphysical way: by the time there was life upon this world, the sun would have passed in two a red giant phase. This was not known to any of the companions – because the two humans had not technologically reached the conclusion with their minds, and the elf would never think that way because she was magical. But, there was a point – and everyone scurried under the trees from Nolomar - which was the name of the yellowish disk – as it beat down on everything beneath it. Stars which had natural life, that formed a consciousness by physical rules need someplace slightly cooler – which is why the earthmasters chose this place – because they knew that no life would form here, and they could to what they wished. Or their gods wished, because they had a resonance which was beyond words with that thing that they worshiped.

When young, the legionnaire lived in the days of wine and marching – for that was all he could enjoy. Occasionally he would taste of a prostitute – but it was not something he enjoyed, until he trained more and more, and had to get peccadilloes less and less. Until finally such pleasures revealed their weakness – and he realized he had not enjoyed them all that much. Now was changing still, and in that changing discovered something that was, for him, unusual. He knew that like to search and explore – now he was finding out the exquisite pleasures of classifying what he found, and writing it down in his tablet. This was unusual for him, and he did not expect it. Then he put the memory aside, and looked once more around him.

There he saw the arrangement. He was outdoors, but once, a piece that added up to some rooms. It is a ruin now, of shops attached to a marketplace of Ekall-Anuz. Looked from above, one can see four shops – though one is almost disappeared, and with maple trees growing shade. Three of the shops however, are joined together – in apothecary, a tavern, and what was once a jewelers shop – though no one would recognize it. These three stores share a circular stairway, but it only goes up to a second story which no longer exists. The downward steps are covered with rocks and debris. There is a bush in the fourth store, one that has currants.

When he finally sat down, and to some strange stones that he found – he also looked up at Gwynwyffer – who was examining some obviously pointed sticks. She looked down the length of them, and it was almost as if she were trying to figure out whether they were designed to inflict injury. The sky was grey, and there was a pall across the area. Then something interesting happened, on the Valley floor – inside the walls with ornate mosaics – they found what looked like a set of stairs, but covered with debris. They did not know how long it had been like this, perhaps since the people who had followed the Foulspawner to this place. They also found Loria checking each depression for some sort of access. Gwynwyffer wandered to the north side of the building, to examine some things that did not make sense. That left the legionnaire and the elf staring at each other.

In dancing there was a beat before anyone moves, and it was just so long before Loria looked up at him, raised an eyebrow, and then settled back to work. While doing so she commented to him: “It would be really nice if you of the human race could look above the situation. You will, of course, do so, but only when it is a matter of techne rather than magical. You do not really think in magical terms, though you pretend you do.” The voice was very dry, and he could not tell if it were serious – or funny – or some combination of the two which only elves really knew.

“I do not understand.” Normally he would voice more than this, Though he was not loquacious has either of the women. He then understood that this was on his mind constantly, among men – soldiers particularly, and most particularly among the legionnaires which he commanded, he would not have any problems.

“If that is all you are going to explain, it would appear that it would be wiser for me to play among the burrows, and let the two of you sort things out between you. Or did not realize that the temple – Which is not what is, but will do for now - is right now clawing its way through my brain. And in case you did not know, it is painful – very painful indeed.” She continued to press the floor, which after 600 years was eminently fragile.

“Is this a conversation?” Again, he voiced little of what he was thinking.

“You know I keep forgetting that my people forgets what is held by the same body – whereas your way through the world is to form a new body and deeply learn. There is a large difference, but unfortunately, humans need to learn this in pieces over thousands of years.” Through all of the talking, her eyes remained said on a moss-covered bit of floor, apparently, there was something intensely interesting to her about it.

One boot moved other traced over the roughened oak, but he did not know what she was looking for. Finally, he asked bluntly:

“What is it that you are looking for?”

“Tell me, do you always ask such certain questions? Or is it an inverse response – you tell short-lived humans a long question – and you tell long-lived elves very short questions? It would seem to me to be rather better to reverse the order of the questions that you ask. It is just a thought, mind you. But you have so little time on this world – or any world – that you had better think on this subject with due rapidity.”

“I think you would be wiser to not let your human companion give you advice on how you speak. She does not sound as other humans do. You do realize this, yes?”

Not looking up from the floor, she responded gracefully – in fact to gracefully for a legionnaire – it was a bit disconcerting to him. “ this may not have occurred to you, but in general, speaking to a large group – especially of humans – is not a thing of habit. I would much rather talk one on one. And by this measure, the melodious tone of her voice is fine. You are a soldier, and thus speak to your subordinates frequently, and in large number. So your pattern of speech is fine for you, and maybe find for a group of soldiers.” What she did not say, was that it was not fine for her. This explanation shook the legionnaire, it was almost as if he was talking, and she was talking, and there was only a little bit of communication between them. He wondered if he should start over, because it seemed as if he had done something wrong. It seemed that the short sentences – it was not confusing, but it was disturbing to her.

“My apologies if my words were not understood.”

“So what is it that you would wish to say? As you can see, the floor seems odd – and the pair of you have two listen to me on something else as well.”

“Why do not you stop looking at the encrusted floor, and say what you wish us to hear?”
“Because there is only one, not two, present. And again that you could pull your self upwards, and see the greater picture, it will be so much easier to talk to you.”

“I come from a different world.”

“No, I come from different world, you are born to this one.” She looked up with a serious demeanor on her face, and he realized that whatever humor was in her voice moments ago, was drained now. He had heard of different worlds, including Yashain – where dead humans go, but he did not know for a fact that they truly existed. But obviously the elf did, and he would never question that again.

Nothing was easy with this elf, every twist and turn was different from a soldier – or even such a dizzy person as Gwynwyffer, even darker then a gargun – because she was immortal – and nothing else was, even a Khuzdul had a limit to its life – all it was longer than a human, there were trees older than that. And he heard a tale from Gwynwyffer that some of the trees could walk and think like we could. But this meant he finally had no more words, and simply sat and stared.

So the elf spoke again: “Have you nothing to say to me? Should I just go back to the Barrows?”

Strangely enough, this question actually sounded quite human. It was a thing that any woman might say when she could not get a response from the man she was talking to. So he started to speak, but nothing came out of his mouth – he realized he did not have anything to say. The mouth was open, but the brain did not have any words to fill in. teaming with words was the elves hidden gift, so she continued to talk.

“You do not know what to say. It is almost as if you were a bird or some brief living mouse, who will forget what you said by the time finish saying it. Should I even bother talking with you?” she went on in this way for several paragraphs, each one slightly different from the other, but all the same thing in that she was questioning, not him, but herself. She was wondering if it was even possible to talk to him. Finally, she grew peaceful, and simply waited for him to respond. But before that happened, Gwynwyffer came out of the wood, and she began to talk – and she really did not care if anyone else was listening. This is the difference between all men and all women of talking races. One will have two speak to an expert on birds, though – for they have different features, since a male bird is actually like a female human, and a female bird is like a male. But this is something that few know in the world, it is a secret known only to Sindarin and Shek-Pvar, and one or two others who do not have a name.

Then, in an instant, Gwynwyffer stopped talking because she noticed that the other two were not. And nothing disturbed her more than being the only one talking – in her mind a gregariousness of many people talking was normal. So she looked at the two of them, and her face was asking the question of why they were not conversing.

It was the legionnaire who responded, and in an even low pitched sort of way. It was obvious by now he was calm, though some tremolades in his voice said this was only recent. “ the elf has many things she needs to say to me – but has instead been going on about why she bothers talking to me. This is not of interest to me, so I stopped talking. And then she did as well. So we stopped conversing, largely because each person wished to speak about something that was not of interest to the other.”

At this point the silver owl was in somewhat of a quandary, deciding she would rather berate with her voice. Each of them was a good target – so she to stop and stared. The elf then began, having heard something that enlightened her fancy – though neither of the two of the humans knew what it was.

“Seems that information is what the soldier wants, and he shall get information that – though that is a waste of the gift that is language.” Loria was speaking in an even tone, but not one which was polite – or indeed politic. “ the first point of information is that the two figures which are servants of more you have will attack tonight. It is obvious from the way you have been up all night, that must have encountered them last night.” At this point she stopped and allowed this to sink in – and then begin with her second point. “ it will however not be just the two, bought also a horde of undead gargun, which they have made that way. It is a spell which is difficult, but in all of the common books of Morgath spells – though it frequently goes awry when someone tries to cast it, it being very difficult.” 

Again she stopped and allowed this to process. “The undead Gargun will be seen immediately, because their eyes will be glowing and yellow. This is the result of the spell.” at this point the pause in her speaking was a kind of cadence. Then she began again: “ thus we must go to the Temple, but there is another problem: some living gargun are camped out at the temple, because they chased us before, and know that the temple is where we must go.”

“Why is that?”

“Because they know that at least one of us is an elf, and the Temple is the only place we can go, to stop the noise that it creates. The gargun also have the same problem that my species does – they can hear the humming that tells them that it grinds the worlds in ways that are not normal. So they know that any elf or gargun will immediately had to the Temple to use the pseud-stone, and then leave this place for blessed silence.”

Gwynwyffer asked a question, though she probably knew the answer: “Does that mean that gargun and elves hear the same thing?”

“You will have to ask someone whose specialty is the basis that the gargun were made, if there are any. But it is likely that their caller knew that the cargo would respond the same way as elves do. And since I am from a different world, and have no human blood in me, the few of us from there respond quite strongly. The native elves of this world do not.”

Realizing that this was the only chance would get for information, the legionnaire asked: “Is there any other piece of information which you have left out? It seemed you were staring at the floor, why is this?”

Stopping and taking a thought, Loria realized that some information that was obvious to her, was not obvious to the two humans. “Lothrim went into the temple, not from the main entrance, but from a hidden tunnel. It was that that I was searching for.” She said had this as if it were clear to any that heard it, though, of course, it was not.

A leaf dropped down, though it was high summer. The two women froze, as if the had the same thought. It was to the legionnaire to ask: “Does that what I think it means?” because he felt something in his head, when a ritual must be applied – rather than, as the women did, his heart.

Loria shafted an arrow, and with great deafness and extreme quickness, plunge it through the leaf – wedging it into the ground, though the leaf did not actually hit it. They could see – all of them – that the we was as black, but otherwise of normal form. It was a miracle, of a different kind. They hushed, and felt the breeze go through the boughs. It was a sound that did not come from this earth, instead it played upon other strings. The strings of Yashain – where the two planets came close to aligning – and for a moment one could feel a magical air about this place, which came from another.

But then it slipped away, but was somehow close.

No one moved, but Loria rather grimly said: “We must get away, through the Temple – because the servants of Morgath are here. They are beginning to call the undead of their command.”

It was at this point that Gwynwyffer said an obvious fact: “So what do we do now?” restraining her voice to the essential features.

“Before our conversation, it was apparent that going down through the stairs should be easy. If only we could find a mechanism, or brute force, that would take us down the stairs.”

“Is that that all? Why did not you say something, it is clear that the stairs downward are hinged by a lock. One that is easily picked, now that the floorboards have been warped.” And then immediately she was completely prone, and got out a plumb line, and drew from it a twine. Then she measured each board, looking for the one which was slightly enlarged from the others. This would indicate a lock in the middle – a lock which once the debris and dirt once pushed away, could be picked. At least by her, anyway.

When she had found what she was looking for, and cleared away the soil – there was cleanly put a bolt through mechanism, which clearly was the underside of a lock. It took several minutes to burrow down until she had the underside – because she had to pick the lock from down below. Then her motions grew gentle, and her eyes Fixed as small slits, to measure the minute movements that to lock picks, which had grown from two bands that covered her wrists, were making. Clearly this was something that she practiced – alone, because she did not want anyone else to know that she could do it. She tried several ways to do it, and then finally found the right operation – and then it was done. 

The boards moved quickly and fell downwards. It was obvious that they had been moved before, but it had been several decades. They were all staring down a yawing pit, with the door as the only thing which was visible. It was clear that Loria saw more than the other two, but she did not see much more.

A murder of crows flew out the of nooks and crannies - ingrates that spiral up from the ruined staircases. For a moment wings obscured it all. It was then that the legionnaire said: “There is a spell on the floor, it keeps us from perceiving the bottom. And sent the birds flying.”
The below them, a pit beckoned them, as a whirlwind grew up around them – and how it there cloaks spinning around. It felt like autumn, even though there was no reason for it to be. Overhead the clouds grew at an unnaturally fast pace, and quickly the air grew heavy and the light grew dim. The silver owl jumped first, as if she no longer wanted to be on the surface.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Alan Turing’s school report reveals little of his genius

A Solitary Crow - Elkall-Anuz - 7

The Hidden Fortress

“It could be that this is part of Lothrim. And that it has been deserted since then.”

It hung in the air, this speculation in a misty foreign air - on what was obviously a gargun warren. It was from the mouth of the legionnaire. The simple plainness of his words, that rise and questioning in his tone of voice. And the simple silence which surrounded the utterance. It may have been a question, but it had the force of being a statement. But then the magic fell apart, and the roar from the other mouth became incessant. She poured forth a series of objections, but in the end it was her doubt of the core assertion – that the gargun would ever leave someplace voluntarily. She did not believe it, and, it seemed, was never going to believe it. Then she cried, and stuck her head on his chest – it was more than just sob, but that would have to be enough to describe it. One could not tell how long her weeping when, but it was longer than anyone could imagine. Then she went into a deep contemplation.

Then from out of the hidden light, came Loria. It was that there was something more than just a little bit wrong, of course she had all of the signs of a person looking for something – twigs in the hair, stains of grass, even a few signs of soot – but there was something else wrong, and rather then guess what it is he waiting for her to explain what it once. She was not actually going to explain, but she saw him standing there, and realize that he was not going to get by without some sort of account.

“Seems like want a reason for why I have been away.”

“It would be nice, yes.”

“And I thought I was just going to go my merry way without informing either of you where I was going.” there was a hint of a smile, and it was the first joke – barely – that she had cracked in the time that they had been adventuring. He tried not to smile himself, but in the end manage not to do so. In fact, it was not a joke, but the idea that an elf could crack a joke, that tickled him. And so first he chortled, then finally came out laughing.

“I know that those of us who are humans have a different sense of humor, but please indulge us in our little games that we play with words. And even if do not find them funny, try at least laugh. Now, why were away, I have my guesses but I would like to hear from you.”

“You know that is an awful number of uses of 'I' in one sentence.”

“Would you like me to restated with a fewer number?”

“It might be nice, who knows, you could become an elf, if you tried. Or at least a pet of one.”

“May the Emperor forbids such a thing.”

But then became serious, and Loria begins to fill her explanation in. “ as you may know, or at least I hope you do, there is a monolith inside the translucent dome. And because many of us who are elves also walk between worlds, there is deeply disturbing figures which dance through our brain. Fortunately, we forget these things, until we are faced with them again. So it seemed while you were checking out pieces of the archaeology – I know that that is not how you think of it – I waited at a clear distance, so that the visions were manageable. But there is something that I have report to you, and meant that it was imperative to approach you – even with visions.”

“What exactly is that?”

“You checked out the mirrored image on the largest tomb.”

At this point, Gwynwyffer finally finished contemplating, “We did not go into it, almost thought it was too dangerous, if you have a different opinion, please elucidate.”

“Going in for ourselves is probably too dangerous. After all what happened to the mage would probably happen to you. But there are many creatures who can go in and out freely. And one of them has set up residence. And now is waking up.”

“Is it the spirit of Lothrim?”

“The spirit who has been dead as long as he has been, would not be recognizable. So I do not know if it is the last human builder of this place. But honestly I doubt it. But having taken residence is only have half story.”

“And what is the other half?”

“The other half is that the being who has taken a residence, is for more powerful than anything living or dead. Except of course for the Earthmasters own construction, which though it has an aura, does not judge.”

“What you mean, does not judge?” Again the legionnaire probed with his short simple words.
Loria put her face, as it she was talking to a child – which basically from her point of view she was – and very slowly spelled it out for the two humans, though she knew this was impolite to say the least. “It does not care whether the aura will do anything to any of us. This is not its concern.” She said it so slowly, that both of the humans realized that she had basically been annoyed. They both realized, that this, and its implications, were trivial to work out for the elf.

“Pretend I am stupid – and take me through what that means.”

But it was Gwynwyffer which pointed the obvious thing out: “It is undead and magical, and will gather most of the undead and magical things. In fact I would assume that it is doing so now.” The elf merely nodded at this. So Gwynwyffer preceded to ask the question which was on her mind: “How long will it take to gather such forces?”

There was a quiet, and the humans realized that Loria was restraining her patience, and their was an obvious answer – which would have been painfully apparent to an elf. “Would I be standing here if it were in the distance?”

The legionnaire brushed off his helmet, and fluffed his red crest holder. “So you are saying that it is very close.” It was a statement, not an interrogative.

That was when Loria put her finger on her lips, and made a silent sound. Slowly, And with just a hint of breath to her voice: “ they are coming out tonight.” This is all she said. The legionnaire turned around to talk to his human companion – but then realized that it would be hard to locate the elf – so he turned back again. Fortunately she was told there, and he tried reasoning, cajoling, and every sort of tone of voice that he could manage.

But none was able to achieve word from her. For Gwynwyffer's part, she stood and watched -
knowing that what the legionnaire was doing would be entirely ineffective. She had tried it several times before, so was not as if she had some divine piece of wisdom – instead she was remembering all times that she had done it herself. And the share annoyance that came with meeting a stone wall of non-response. She came to the conclusion that the elf was actually drifting off and allowing her to talk. At least this is the most likely explanation that Gwynwyffer had come up with.

Finally the legionnaire quieted down, and simply sat and looked at Loria. “ Does she even hear what we are talking about?” this was over his shoulder, directed at Gwynwyffer.

“To tell the truth, it is very doubtful. It might be so, but I have seen nothing – and I mean nothing – to indicate that there is anything in her head but an elf state of dreaming. It is almost as if an elf will simply leave their body behind, and go off into another part of what they see as a dream world. It is almost as if waking and sleeping are, to them, effectively the same. When they are awake they share a world with certain other characters, and when they are in some forgotten land – there are different characters, which, nonetheless, are still real to them. And who is to say, the other characters may in fact have the same reality, only in a different part of the dreamscape.”

For some time the legionnaire cognitive on this, but ultimately was defeated by an in impregnable wall which halfway felt within his mind – and halfway outside of his mind. He did not know, of course, whether it was imposed or not. It was a matter for men further up in the pay scale than he was. Somethings only Imperial Legate could worry about, which was three steps above his role as Camp Prefect – and two steps above his temporary rank as Tribune Laticlavius, which could only be appointed by a senator, even as a war promotion – including the Emperor when acting as a senator. There had been times when the Emperor was not technically a senator – but these times were few and far between.

Then he looked up, and saw that the sun had it afternoon, and it was a late afternoon at that. He did not know where the time went, he imagined he had just been thinking – which was unusual for him, since he was more of a doer – not really a thinker. The other point was that Gwynwyffer was a thinker, and had simply allowed him to think. Looking at her face, he saw that this was intentional – that she had allowed him to think as long and as hard as he wished. Normally he did just enough thinking to decide his course of action, which he found was more than most people did, but not so much as he would like. He was a doer that realized there were thinkers in the universe. And, quite frankly, that there were thinkers disturbed him – he would rather everybody in the world be like himself. That he was with two thinkers was unnerving. What was it, he thought, that made people inclined to just ponder and ruminate without brooding. He knew what it was to brood, and, in his opinion, nothing good would come of it. His two companions however, did not brood, but gently lit their thoughts on one thing and then another, and magically came to some decision. Whether it was large or small, it was – a thought. Sucking at the marrow from which all thoughts came from. The sun had inched down a little bit while he thought this, and realized that time was part of the equation. He valued time more than his partners did, and thus his objective was to be good enough – not truly good. There was a difference, and he knew it quite well.

“Gwynwyffer, what are we waiting for? It Seemed as if we were going to take this place apart – but you and Loria came to some agreement, which I must have to, and everything stopped.”

“When it is dark, all of the undead will come out. You should have done this, and by your silence you did. Thinking is your forte, but it may be with time.”

The legionnaire realized he was being trained in the art of being a thinker. This was disturbing, because as a priest – thinking was generally not part of the concept. You saw, and you did. The ritual came to you, and you said it. There was not a great deal of time to think about things – even decisions had to be made quickly.

Then he thought, this must be the way mages think. And was not quite sure if he should be initiated to the concepts – if he had a choice. At the moment did not think so – women had the tendency to work the solution in their direction. The only choice that men had was either to abuse them, or accept their solution. And abusing women was nasty – he had seen enough examples of this firsthand.

Once upon a time, when was a Primus Pilus – just below the ranks of a senior commander – and they fought a group of barbarians until they killed all of them. Then they noticed that there was a stench coming down from the hill, which was older and therefore was not there doing. Eventually they found what was causing it – women and children, either raped then killed, or chopped up for stew meat. It took quite a few hours before the bodies were disposed of, and it took quite a good deal of stoicism to continue to do this and tell it was done. Everybody looked to him or how to behave, and he hoped that the stern jaw was enough of an indication. If not, there were stern penalties which were ruthlessly enforced. Compared to this, there was any hint of questioning their leaders – this was not allowed. Whereas now, there was a great deal of questioning – and he felt a fluidity of leadership. Which he felt to be unsettling, but no matter, because he was simply a cog based on an order from higher up. If the two women wanted to discuss things – that was fine by him, because of eventually there would be fighting, and that was the time for doing.

So they more or less did very little other than searching for gargun – and waiting for the sun to get below the horizon. In the legionnaires had thoughts were spinning, which was unusual for him. He not only thought about the present times – with its demons lurking out from the hills, but about the times when he followed in his father's footsteps as a legionnaire. His brother did to – and most people thought that he was better – including the people in command of them both. So long he rose, he did not rise as much as his brother did, because his brother would command a legion. He was still an officer, but rather slowly, and in his mind he thought that his position could have been to letter his brother, rather than being earned by him. It might be true, it might not be true, and that gnawing feeling wood from time to time show up as an indigestion. This was the time where he would be excused from the nightly meal with his companions, and slip out and look at the planets and stars.
And wonder if he made the right choice.

It was just a little after sunset, and everything was quiet – and there were few birds or rodents, which had become usual. There was something in the valley which was dead in its creation, as if the life was dead. Gradually he scanned the darkened area of the basin, and realized that he could actually see nothing but the stars above him. He wondered what things crept a missed the trees and bushes – and with that a tempting sign of relief. This was because everyone knew that the Fae creatures had the mysterious property of having their eyes illuminated. Yes, it was a small comfort sitting here in the dark – and he realized that he was grasping for anything he could. Under normal circumstances he would not even have noticed something that small. He then took a scan of his eyes over the trees, and saw nothing. But he had heard something. It was over to his left, and it was not the snap of branch, or any natural phenomenon, of this he was sure. But where was it? And what to did sound like? It was a little bit like an unearthly cooing, that raised high up in to the local range. It was not a bird, but it sounded like one. That meant, he thought to himself, it was an intelligent creature trying to mimic a sound that came from an less intelligent creature. But it was not like a cricket, which would be in abundance if this were a normal wooded valley.

But all of these thoughts were making him miss whatever would be causing that sound, and so he redoubled his search for the creature which was still out of touch – but only just. He then realized it was stalking him, and this meant nothing good. But clearing his head did not seem to work, everything was provided in his memory and in the way he thought about it. This was no good, he reflected, no good at all.

Then he tried to reach for his two companions, and then he realized that both were not visible. That Loria was not visible was not a surprise – that Gwynwyffer was not visible was a surprise. Now there were two issues – what was causing the noise, and what had his companion done and not told him. He then realized that Loria had given the three of them a unique advantage – in that on almost every night she would watch over them continuously, which was not the way he had usually done things. Normally he would get up and serve a watch period. He mentally made a note of this, and result to do better in taking initiative. It was what his older brother would want anyway – who stood to command an entire legion when he was next called up for service. He wondered if he would ever command, and if he would ever be good enough to earn the respect – of the people commended, of the people he respected, and of course, from his brother.

Hoping that against the stars he would see what kind of creature it was he waited for just an instant. Then as he turned around, a ghost-like figure appeared in the corner of his eye. It was not white, exactly, and if he truly looked at it – it was darker than anything else he saw. But in his eyes, it took on a whiteness that came from being blacker then anything else. It was some kind of illusion, he thought, or a prestidigitation of his eyes. Or at least that is the best that could come up with. But the one thing that was certain, is this was the source of the cooing noise he had heard – which rushed over his skin, and made an impression that seemed like both delight and despond at the same time. As if it were shaking his skin after the touch had faded. But he put off this and thrust out with his short sword where he had just seen the figure dance to. And immediately something like black blood streamed out, though he did not know from where. He could not actually see the figure, except when he caught it in the corner of his eye. From out of habit, he assumed a position which long ago a sword master taught him: his torso and head were erect, but his legs were at 45° angles and bent at the knees. It was at this point that he struck out from time to time, just so the creature could not seek upon him.

Realizing that the black figure was reaching for him – but for something on his person, though he did not know what it was. The black figure could be seen in the outline of darkest white – that is the best he could describe it anyway – like a picture of an illusion where the white intersections became black as the darker squares. He had seen it in some book that his father had owned – it was plundered from one library or another. This guided him to strike at the corners that showed, because at least there was a chance that he might hit something.

It was an even match – because while the black figure was both magical and quicker than he was, he had a longer reach and a sword that was not magical – exactly. But it was arcane, made from Elvish Magic which he had once in a bet. They spiraled each other, fainting more than striking – but striking man the less. Unlike his opponent, he struck for the center of its mass – while his opposite number continued to reach with unseen hands for – something.

The coldness of the night was gradually making its way from his skin – which was not so bad – into the bones. This had the effect of making him shiver. So he watched for another attack, but one never came. Nor did the eyes glow, or the cooing noise occur – even in the distance. The only thing he heard was his own breath.

He stayed this way, until the very early dawn came through – a long with a view clouds which portended some kind of a shower, perhaps even one which would become a downpour.

Eventually, Gwynwyffer became visible again – which led him to turn to her and ask: “Where were you last night? I was involved in somewhat of a fight with – I think – one of the undead.”

“I went to wander by the pool that is about half a mile from here, trying to figure out how it could be so clean. But then a rustle came through, but the noise would not go away, and in the darkness, something could be seen, something vague in the trees. It was not quite black – it had a touch of lightness to it, though when it was black when it was looked at it. It must have been of the same sort that you fought, maybe even the same one. At that point the logical thing to do was to freeze – and every time it seemed likely to move, another moan came through from the trees – though it was often centered at different places.”

A leaf drifted down from above – for it was finally raining. But instead of moving quickly, the legionnaire slowly though, and then finally made a pronouncement – because it was not his normal mode of cogitating for this long, and two this much extent. “There must be two of them – one dishes out attacks, with a speed made furious, that it cannot be told if it has one pair of hands or many. The other one does not attack, and hopes that will fly screaming from its noise. At least, this is my opinion, what do you think?” He normally did not want someone else's opinion enough to ask for it so politely.

She, for her part, recognized that he was asking her – and this was not usual in the way that he did it. Thus, her mentor was more courteous – and even coquettish – in her response. “It is an idea, but there could be one – and it wants something from you, but not from me.” the rain became harder, and finally they moved to a tall oak tree – which was different from all of the other oak trees, in that it had a slight reddish nature to its foliage. Obviously it was a different species, and less apparent was that there were few examples in the valley.

In other times, in other lands, the legionnaire would think to kiss his companion. But in this time and this place, it would only be bought off. In the West, people were unusually picky about who they slept with, or even took their lips. What was unusual, was that these three did not kiss their hands as much as other people get – so unusual that people who watched them tittered that they might have been the purest of the pure – and not in that tone of voice which approved of it. But then people who reported with elves were unusual in the extreme.

They were both tired, and by unspoken agreement, they searched for enemies either people, gargun or something news shape was undead. Inside they were winded, and they stood without talking. Perhaps they were waiting for Loria, and await her presence to get the next piece of the search started. But that was a little lie, because they knew they had to find out where the night creatures were, and if they had followers – and a host of things that needed funding out. But they could not raise the ennui that encompassed them. And then Gwynwyffer exclaimed:

“We are underneath a spell, that makes us turgid, when we should be active. So at least one of the black creatures is quite near to us, and casting a spell. It wants us here in the night, and we can be sure that it has ill in its mind.”

At that point the legionnaire nodded. It was usually the kind of thing which he thought of. And he wondered why he did not. All of the answers were not good, but each in its own distinctive way. This, alone. worried him by more than he could properly voice.

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Solitary Crow - Elkall-Anuz - 6

In the Morning Twilight

In the dark morning twilight, group of crows leapt out of their niches – to find food, not for themselves but for their children. All at once it went from quietude, to a perpetual noise – throaty calls and the beating of dozens of wings. The sky, at the moment, was still mostly clear – though who would know what it would be like, natural or not. Loria look down at the two sleeping humans, covered by her gracious invisibility – and she touched them each on their forehead – giving them rest. She had other plans in mind. So she set herself off towards the east, with the foothills waxing and if one had good site – beyond them lies the mountains which are the pinnacle of any that are on Hârn, with its towering mountains holding the island in equipoise, not responding to tectonic shifts which other continents responded to.

The trees were few in number, for they were constantly cut down by both humans and other denizens of the wood. There were few that lived here, but many past through here – to make the pilgrimage to the Temple, the Temple of the Dead – or so it was called. Loria had been here many times, though she had forgotten most of them, except times which were special – such as when long-term resided here. There were stories about these times, which she had lived through. The son would come up behind her, and light her back. She suspected that there was something untoward at the Temple - and not is why, even for these times - there were few people making a pilgrimage. The likely course of action would be the consumption of pilgrims, because it had not gone around that something inhabited the Temple. She was there to find out – though every step was agony to her. The power to walk gateways was traced into her bones – and the power that guided this temple, and many others along Hârn, and throughout the world, and into other worlds was the same kind, but different in nature.

Keeping beneath the trees, as best that she could, she was watching both the long pool, and beyond it to the Temple. As things were, it was a very simple structure – not like so many that were ornate. Even at this distance one could see a circular dome, and she knew well that there were two flat projections – held up by columns. As was the nature of the earthmasters leader style, the columns ever so gently bent inwards – making it seem as if they were perfectly straight. It was a trompel'oeil.

She moved through the glassed sheened surface of the pool, knowing not to touch it for it was pleasant. The trees behind it had grown a little bit larger, making a rough projection of the trees in the backdrop, with the Temple at its midpoint, and gradually the projections upwards of temple columns, which were the same as the once which held up the annular dome. Even though she had seen this many times, it was still an odd vision – the pseudo-stone remained the same, while the pushes, trees, and even mountains changed with time. She could begin to see that the arched vault was translucent in color. She did not yet see if there were shapes which could tell you if anything living was in it.

Moving past the pool, carefully controlling her pace – such that even birds would not notice the movement she created – that came a point where she knew that there was something living in the Temple – and it was alive, not undead.

If she were being careful, she would have turned around – and walking her to companions, and explained that they would have to enter it from a more hidden angle. The curtain would not enter the room which held a tower, roughly 7 1/2 feet tall, of an obelisk. They, like her, would feel the pressure in their skull from the transformative pressure that radiated outwards from it. If one knew how to do it, one could touch it and allow anyone following you to disappear and then reappear in another place – though not a different time. That was a secret that if the earthmaster's knew it, they had not encoded in the designs.

But She was not so careful as this, and instead weaved from tree to tree, so as to find out both the kind and the number of the gargun. She could already smell them, including the rounded figure of the Queen, who laid eggs, and the King - for as long as he was able – for unauthorized them.
The pattern of her spell made it possible to walk among the living, and if she was careful, if they had detection if they did not look directly at her. In this case, she had tuned the spell to resonate with the gargun, making it more difficult for them to see her. But it was hardly an invisibility spell, and eventually they would catch her in the act.It was also getting to be dawn – and in an hour the sun would crest the Eastern rim of the sky. Thus she had to be careful, and their was that balance between hurrying up, and moving quietly. But this balance was ingrained into her bones, and she did not think much about it. Gradually she made her way past the pool, and was struck by the smoothness of earthmaster construction. There was nothing like it in the world, every scheme was perfectly constructed – not even the ornate puzzlement of dwarves had the same effect.

It was obvious by now that the male gargun were sleeping around the Temple. They were just inside so as to be hidden, but not much inside, because the noise would creep in two drives them mad. This was not the underlings idea, instead it was a trap. The only thing that was good for everyone was the feast of humans that came through, but that was not the point at all.

Now it was possible that the legionnaire would draw his gladus – the name he used for his short sword – and we had into the thicket. Or at least he would think about it, though he knew that be wrong. Very wrong, even all three of them together would not have very much of a chance, and would have to sneak away. The problem was there Queen – because she alone produced eggs. Without the Queen they would have two weight for two years before a new Queen was raised. And another year for she produced offspring. Then there would be a fight, and the new King would have to take time to mature. It was a long process if the Queen was killed. If she knew that her time was limited, she could produce new Queens, and a batch of new Kings – and they would be ready to take her place, and his place whether you liked it or not. But having a hive here was definitely not good.

What actually needed to happen than, was they would have two engage in stealthiness – which was not what the legionnaire did. Or not the first time, she wondered why had been attached to this mission – there was something in the mind of the human who did so. It could simple – like having the legionnaire report to his superiors on the continent – but that would be less ornate than would be expected. The great Empire on the land produced much more scheming minds, even if there was something really to scheme about. It also probably was not just to annoy them – because even a dunce could see that nothing could annoy either of the two women involved. At this point a human would indulge in conspiracy fantasies. In truth, there was a case to be made for some of them – but only in a passing manner. That left the dark conspiracies looming ahead – which she dismissed, but only because she knew where there were secrets to be had – such as the leader of the Morgath worship in the Western most city on hard was undead. He would not be able to keep it a secret mind you, but for the few years he did so, he would be an excellent spy. But this was in no way connected with any of the real conspiracies. There was bets that were made, with no interest has two the outcomes – save for the interest of the betting parties. She rather suspected that that was the case, because even gods and their minions like to wager on the goings on of mortals. That is because mortals had free will, and thus could surprise the gods. This was different from the elves, who could fool the gods in little ways, but over the large scale they would be themselves, and the gods knew that.

Or thought they did. Because there were certain caveats, such as the born not on this world, and worshiping not to of the gods or goddesses who had enshrined them selves over this land.

So instead of seeking a way – as a the would have done, nor stepping out and fighting, the way a warrior or mage – there was only two things that she had to know – where was the queen, and how did they have two kill her. The rest would play out the way they had wanted to, and she suspected that the way to kill the Queen was to get the Morgathi two do the deed. Because then she would have a surprise for the Lord God of death, they would step through pseudo-stone and vanish. Because the gods could not use the obelisk in that way, nor could any of their servitors.

At that point the trees had run out, and before her was the translucent dome, glowing with a light that was unnatural, for it did not come from the sun, or yael – the moon. So she had a choice to make, but she knew more about gargun then most people knew. One thing that she knew is that they were actually intelligent, as bright as a human being. But they did not live long, and therefore had no experience. So in quick judgments they were as nimble as any – but when it came to actually thinking, there they had problems. Which is why she was not going to reach into the Temple through the front way with her spell running, because even though it would confuse them for a few brief moments – they would eventually see her and attack her. And she healed very slowly, and eventually would be torn down.

Trickery was the answer – she gathered up small stones, which would be the road used by smaller gargun to beg for milk – and eventually she would throw them against the top of the dome, which would hit them from many directions. At that point, she made a guess that they would surround the Queen, which would be fine with her – because that would indicate where she was, though she was hidden. Then she would leave, because though and attack were possible – it probably was not going to succeed. And success, for an elf, was absolutely paramount.

The only thing that she needed to worry about, was the intrusion of others. Morgathi for most, but any undead or alive visitors who might be planning something. In other words, though she loathed to admit it, this would have to be luck – unless she had a plan. She thought for a moment, and realized she did not – though one would happen to her sometime later she supposed. That was the way of things – eventually you would come up with better solution, and implement it on some later moment. This is why humans pick a profession, so that they can use already planned out scenarios. This is why elves challenge enemies with different occupational hazards, and hope that they will not come up with anything better in the split second that they have two think about it.

So she girded up her legs and through herself into action.

All was according to how she planned it: the stones fell in random directions, the two guards woke up the sleeping ones, and formed a tight circle around the Queen, who was indeed hidden from view. Then they looked about for the danger, wall to nurse maids checked the little ones – in case they had wanted milk. She was going to sneak out. When something disastrous happened.

It was not that she did not expect it, but she did not expect it in the way that it happened. In a circle there were two gargun which had glowing eyes. And began attacking the other gargun. She could see that these were undead, and under the control of a black morgathi – who, like herself, was hidden outside the dome's light. She also knew that the undead creature would know exactly where she was, it was a gift to see in two the blind spectrum that bees and other things could see. She looked around, hoping to get a glimpse of the undead creature – because the gargun would handle their undead traitors with ease.

It was a race.

Somewhere in the tangle of bushes branches and tree bough limbs, there was a figure made out of dark, with only twin eyes that were white. And the only thing that she could look for was the hands that were shaping the conjuring part of a spell. It would be easy if someone pointed it out – and most hard if you had to be the first to see it. But the last catch was the hardest – when the hands stopped moving, she would feel a wave of pure hatred. And then nothing at all, she would be consumed into the shadow of the demigod – Klyss. Then, forever afterwards, there would be a sign that she was the underling of the dark God. What she knew, and few others did, at the very split second of the spell, she would have a choice. Go mad, or take the drink and be one with Klyss. No other choice was in any way – good. One was a torrent of madness, where one did not know that one served Morgath, the other one you knew you served, and had no choice about it. Was the lack of choice hanging over your head that led to despair.

It was almost up, this race – and she knew she was losing. Their was a distinct low sound – like the taming of a little drum – which said that her time was almost up. She looked up and to the Pine trees, and the Maple trees, and even onto the mighty oaks. She cast her glance down at the ground, both the grassy deck and the soiled earth – because it could seep deep in two the ground, with only its hands showing. But wherever she looked, or swept with her feet, there was nothing there. In the sky, in the trees, in the turf, and even below the ground, there was no sign of the Morgathi presence.

But then one of the living Gargun snapped his eyes up and to the left, and by instinct she knew that it was the shadow, and so pointed her bow at him and drew. Their was a short whistle, which was lower than any bow that humans drew, and one arrow – enormous in size, struck something, something which came from without, something which was not dead or living, but a queasy unlifelessness – which was not from this earth. There were no lights per se, but there was a distinct difference between dark, as morning were treated, and dark, as the other world made it. At this point, Loria poured another shot, and then another – and the blackness ran, though not in this world. She had not dispelled, it was she hoped it was going to recuperate in the land of Yashain, where it was reborn. But she was not sure.

She still had to avoid the living gargun, but that was significantly easier, especially as they needed to look for her – and she vanished behind an oak tree, a very old oak tree, dripping down one of its last mast of acorns. Then as the light grew stronger, she spirited away, eventually to tell her companions that they would have two find a different way through. Because this morgathi was not the one in the Barrows, but served him in looking for people ready, or unready, to serve his God. She knew that his power was much greater than hers, so it would have to be by treachery – which she could not use and would not discuss with anyone, because she was not sure, absolutely sure, that treachery would occur to either Gwynwyffer or the legionnaire. Sometimes she did not know what humans thought, it was a mystery, as the same went.

Then the sun came up and hit her face. The trees were knocked down, it was a ritual of the “barbarians”. Only she did not think of them that way, because only they met by pale moonlight with the dwarves and elves. They would share deep rituals that were from the older gods. The older gods that had learned that they should be secretive, and let the humans worship such pretenders as they did.

She cuffed her cloak, and proceeded in shadow. All the time figuring out what she was going to say, and how she would say it. Each time checking whether she would reveal things that humans ought not to know about either the elves, in general, or herself, in particular. Though she did wonder about what went on in the heads of humans, for example, why did so many of them fill the syllable “Mor” and ”Mur” with the air of death.