The latest from my online epic, Lore of the Underlings.
Chapter 2 continues:
“Welcome back, Guard!” the elderwoman announced. “We pray that your expedition was successful. As you can see, we’ve had some unwelcome guests this day.” She gestured toward the strangers at her back, but met only stony silence from the horn-framed faces mounted high above her.
“Is he not here? Did he not return with you — the brother Treasuror?”
One of the Guard raised a shiny black battle pike and pointed into the night.
“Ah,” replied the elderwoman uncertainly.
John Cap mumbled out of the side of his mouth, just loud enough for Morio to hear. “This what you expected?”
“More or less,” Morio mumbled back.
“What’s with the fancy suits?”
“Armor of spring vine, it is said. Each in the colors of a region or clan, I think.”
“Look!” someone shouted.
A lone rider took form in the murk from which the others had come. But this one was different. Something was wrong.
This man and mount moved slowly, haltingly — not with the pace or power of the first. As they came closer, all could see that the animal had suffered wounds. It limped painfully on but three of its four long legs, listing perilously to the left yet holding its head high and proud.
Another of the eleven inner Guard produced a thin pipe from the handle of his battle pike and raised it to his lips. He blew a short shrill melody, then repeated it once then once again.
“What happened?” wondered Ixit aloud.
“It’s the brother Treasuror’s vell, Arrowborne,” answered Boxbo. “It’s hurt.”
“I can see that, you knothole.”
Still the vell was a creature of beauty. Taller by two than its rider it was but slender of shape, a wisp of the width of the chevox, its kin. Its coat shone sleek, colored lightly of tan, but with head and mane that seemed of smoothest soulstone, carved in perfect measure by a master’s hand, cast pure white despite the summer moon’s yellowed palette. Its eyes were set like treasured gems that had been polished well and inlaid with a gentle touch, wide apart upon each side. They were lidless and black, like liquid pooled, a black the deep of dreams.
As the wounded one approached, each chevox bowed its great horned head, some quietly scraping the ground with their heavy hooves while it passed. The vell seemed to nod slightly in return, revealing the hint of horns that crowned it.
The rider called out, “Ayr, Pyr, Ayron! Come here!” He carefully dismounted the vell and lowered himself to the ground as the three boys came quickly forward. The vell staggered, then let out a muffled grunt. “Lead Arrowborne to the stables. See that he is fed and watered — and made comfortable.”
“Yes Uncle,” answered Pyr.
“We will sir,” said Ayron.
Ayr silently took the vell’s gold-hued reins in hand and turned away to hide his damp eyes.
“It reminds me of something from the Everall,” said the young woman softly in the direction of John Cap.
“I have seen such a creature before,” added Morio through a hand cupped to mute the sound. “Once in a book of Semperors past… a noble animal… quite rare it seems…”
The vell craned its neck and stared at the strangers as if listening to them.
Ayr gave a little tug at the reins, but Arrowborne ignored him. He tugged a little harder. Nothing still. “Come on boy, please,” he whispered. “You’re not right. We’ve got to look after you.”
Arrowborne shook his head and kept an eye fixed on the three unknowns.
The two brothers took hold too to give the vell a pull. It answered them with its hindquarters, turning tail to their faces. Then it sat down.
Try as they might to plead with the ground-bound vell, it was all to no avail. “We have orders,” Pyr explained. “We must not fail them old boy, you know that.” Arrowborne crossed his front legs, low near the hooves.
The rider had seen enough. “Leave him be then.”
More to come. To read this chapter from the start, click here.
Bonus update… I’d like to share with you a small bit of additional news. I now know the names of the individual books that will make up Lore of the Underlings. There will be three of them (the first is in progress, the other two are fairly well planned but a long way from being written). Here they are, all puns intended:
- Book One – The Tale of the Tellers
- Book Two – The Tale of Merth and Derth
- Book Three – The Devil’s Tale
“Why three?” you may ask. Just following instructions (from Monty Python and the Holy Grail):
“Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.”