A taste of the latest from my online epic, Lore of the Underlings.
Chapter 3 continues:
Fyryx sat up with a start.
He snatched up the strangers’ sword from the floor and scrambled to his feet.
“It tracks us even here, the beast… to the very edge of our Keep.”
With a few steps he reached the tent’s front doorflap and pressed his ear to listen.
“This thing prowls with a purpose. Thirst it must for more of the blood, your blood, that it tasted yesterday.”
Fyryx noticed the lamp that he hung and how it now burned low. Its oil was almost empty. Its light but an afterglow.
“Morning is soon to come, my friend, and daylight will send this devil home. No oddcat strays far from its lair for long. Not once the sun comes up.”
He heard the growl again, but this time at a distance.
“It chills the spine, that sound, even from afar.”
Fyryx lowered the borrowed sword and began to pace the fore chamber floor. He was silent for a while. His shot eyes were all but shut, somewhere else.
At last he looked.
The petrified vell now seemed strangely serene. Was this the unworldly before him?
At last he spoke.
“You have a peace about you, old boy. Perhaps my childish tales have helped. We were never more alive than then, your pureblood never more clear… In those memories maybe you’ve found some relief from the poison that now pollutes your veins. A moment’s peace at least — in a place of the past where your soul can rest a while from the venom’s reach. Away from its fire and ice.
“And I pray that this peace is not that other, the calm of approaching death…”
Fyryx leaned on the bone-white blade like an old man with his cane.
“Please forgive me, Arrowborne. Riding you into the Wild again, I was careless, reliving a youth long gone. The Keep years had left you less quick and alert, and robbed me of my boyhood luck. I never valued that dumb luck enough or the practice we had evading death. Keeps you sharp, on edge, that constant threat. But we’d all gone hapless and dull in time, even the honored Guard. Waning behind our settlement walls. Flagging atop these seven hills. Wilting in their flowered fields…
“I won’t lie to you any longer, dear friend. There is no cure known for the oddcat’s fang. The moment it lunged and locked on your leg, its teeth too deep in your hind left hock, you were done, all was lost. Still, its toxin takes time to do its work. A day more, maybe two. Is that time enough to work wonders? For a miracle to save your skin? I pray that it’s so, but my hopes are all false.”
The lamplight finally flickered out.
“I had no heart to tell the boys, not out in the Liar’s field last night with all the world fogbound in half-truths and tricks. Not even here in this makeshift stable once they had been spellbound by sleepiness. No, they deserved better, so better to wait. They must learn your fate by the light of day, today, with their heads clear and eyes open wide. Though those eyes won’t long stay dry. I know that they’ll cry for you, Ayr the most. For he’s the most like me.
“You mean that much to them, Arrowborne boy. That much to us all. To me. And to Ayrie… if only I had a way to tell him… but maybe he’ll know somehow anyway. Can you hear me, Ayryx Hurx?”
More to come. To read this chapter from the start, click here.
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