The latest from my online epic, Lore of the Underlings.
Chapter 3 continues:
“The folk burst into a great celebration with wild cheers and tossings of things in the air — hats, coats, sticks, stones, even small children, who were then mostly caught.
“‘Hur-yx! Hur-yx! Hur-yx! Hur-yx!’
“The elders applauded politely, taking their cue from Madam Pum.
“And the Guard joined in on the fun, chanting a sweet little dirge of their own, laced ever so lightly with death.
“O father! Had only I known then or foreseen… All that I’d give now to warn you… How sour would turn the wine from that day, made of the shiny, sweet pom prize you gave. How the tempting fruit would rot and ever spoil our treasured lot. How red the blood I would spill to go back, to return and turn your mind, if my foe were not that devil time.”
Fyryx spat on the straw, as if trying to purge a foul taste from his tongue.
“When we woke in the morning we all took stock of our new world and each of its wonders. The wood’s edge was lined by a dense stand of arbors — great, stately hoaks full of cheek-filling haycorns and tall, sweeping swillows as well — leavish trees willing to let us pass. They quickly gave way to a soft, mossy grove that welcomed bare feet and caressed the toes. From there the land rose in a slope just so to form a fine hillock for defenders to hold and for keeping a watch on the wide plain below. Atop of that hillock our peeled eyes found six sibling hillocks all around, each one a little less high and more round, but blessed of green pastures for boven to graze with soft sweetgrass for pleasing cheese. And along those wee, lazy fields flowed a forest lavish and alive, of wildflowers bright by honey hives, of fleshfruit hung low, fat nuts to try, with truffle root for Treasure Pie, and flocks of slow billit to catch and fry. For builder and maker it offered as much, in everwood lumber and limberwood trunks, or stone of all sorts for our roads, huts, and such.
“It seemed to some the Semperor himself had surely made this place — and made it just so to quench all thirst, to fill every want or need… even down to the cold, clear spring that we found just over the high hill’s crest, in a notch just right for settlement. And that’s where we set to making our Keep, by a babbling brook running east.
“Yet another thirst there was, an older hunger our master knew that could not be so happily measured or met. A dark want. A red need. The lust for blood. The wont to bleed… It would be a lie to deny it… And so the maker crafted here one more wonder, an instrument made to feed and satiate that beast. Too bad the children found it first.
“Small screams drew us from far and wide through a sun-dappled valley of rosewood and pyne to the edge of a great field of green — but a green of vein-blue hue it was, like an ocean stained with jealousy. There in the deep of that sweetgrass sea stood a twisted old ironwood tree. It snaked skyward, spawn of a gray strain unknown, ominous, lost, at anchor alone, a strange scurvy pirate, no skull but all bones, bleeding black sap like bile. With gnarled, fingery branches it cast a wide net, nails longing to scratch at our treasure and get it…
“Two tots, the Mayn twins, had wandered too near in their innocence not knowing what was to fear. It taught them a lesson they’d never forget — a course in assailing with cutty sharps from its twitching limbs and hard arms. Men found them under the waves of blades, still with this world but maimed, everharmed.
“For the boy, Droydyn, his right hand was gone. His sister Nystra had lost her left.
“At least our medicine, all that we’d learned by trial of the Wild, spared their lives. From that day on we boys, the three, were often at their side — then when better, they at ours, always in tow. We didn’t mind. Sweet Hannyn especially befriended them both, ‘Droy’ and ‘Nys’, the siblings she never knew. And up they grew, the plucky pair, not as a single-handed two, but together too handy to compare. At seventeen yet apprenticed and their father’s own, they would be unmatched already, the finest craftsman of pikes ever known. The twain of Mayn. Nearly magical makers. Treasured by the Guard.”
More to come. To read this chapter from the start, click here.
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