The latest from my online epic, Lore of the Underlings.
Chapter 3 continues:
“The sky was full of silhouettes, prey birds upset at our arrival, all aswirl overhead. Their caws and cries echoed against the wood.
“Everyone scurried to make hasty camp in the little light left of the day. No time to explore our new home now, that would have to wait for tomorrow. But the sun set red in the west, the last of its blood spilled on full-bellied clouds, portending the new life to come.
“It was not long before that vision was gone, washed away on the eventide of night.
“Someone shouted. ‘Hurry! The Treasuror is soon to speak!’ And we could see fires lit ahead, folk hoisting branches ablaze as torches.
“So you flew the rest of the way, old boy. It was all we could do to hold on. Our hair went everywhere in the wind and Hannyn, though she screamed, seemed to have the most fun… Well, maybe except for me.
“All were assembled on the rim of a rise where a tree wall rose from the airy plain. At our left, the elders had planted their flags and sat or stood waiting, all whispers and signs. On our right, the folk milled about in a mob, with more than a few sharing grog-skins of drink — mostly thick, potent mudmeade, guzzled and gulped. We wove a way between the two and stole a good spot right up front. Ayrie helped Hannyn down on his back, then the four of us found soft seats in the grass.
“Father loomed large on a great, ancient stump that served as makeshift stage. His kind eyes surveyed the scene before him, embracing the moment to take it all in. One of them gave us a playful wink. He straightened his tattered and dust-covered clothes with a tug to the soily green waistcoat he loved, which used to be fancy in grandfather’s day, then raised both hands for silence. Mother stood just aside him, she in a plain but wild-made dress of undyed limberwood and vine. She shot the folk a look to hush them. The Guard, aligned behind in the usual order, held their pikes high to make the point.
“With that our father, Huryx Hurx, the Treasuror, son of Treasurors, spoke.
“‘Fellow travelers! Gather near. The time has come, O pioneers, to end this endless trail of tears. To roll our rock of ages here. To rest. At last.
“‘You elder statesmen! Lend an ear! You wander-lost of two score years! You Guard of war, our shield and spear! This is your tale be told.
“‘For thirteen thousand days of fear, you carried all that you could bear, and braved to save what we hold dear. Our word. Our blood.
“‘So hand and heart might live, you gave the all you had to give, leaving but your broken bones and dreams.
“‘And your reward, the wicked Wild, starless nightmare of a child.
“‘Your only guide, blind faith.’
“Father paused, letting the flicker of a thousand flames reflect upon his handsome face. Then he pointed to the sky.
“‘Behold the stars! Heaven’s gate. A gift of light, the fruit of faith. Your reward, a golden pom. Cast on sacred ground.’
“He spread his arms wide. ‘Paradise found.’
“Many of the plain folk wept, or bowed their heads in prayer or thought.
“‘Trusted friends! Tested souls! This night is unlike all before. Folk of heart and soil! Four generations, lost no more.
“‘No more olders lost (fallen) gone too frail to follow, or fathers lost (slipped) in the swamps and swallowed, or mothers lost (cold) from the deathly hollows, or children lost (orphaned) left starved and sallow.
“‘Our weary age is over — every one, new-born. Tomorrow, we make haven here. And evermore vow that we keep safe the ruby red blood enjeweled in us all. The gift of our fathers! The wealth of our land! The Semperor’s secret trove!
“‘Treasured ones…’ he added last, with right fist firm upon the heart and left held open to the wood, ‘Welcome home.’
More to come. To read this chapter from the start, click here.
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