One-Minute Epics are new micro tales from John Klobucher’s Lore of the Underlings, a lyrical fantasy-fiction world. Here’s the latest installment…
The Wide Eyed
As soon as Nard Hardseed heard word of the Pendant, the ominous object that clouded the skies over Nord, the far first province of Merth, the leathery westman abandoned his sad patch of sand and his troubles and set out to see it. Without so much as a beggar’s sack, he walked east for sun after sun, moon to moon, alone with his thoughts but not for long; for he was soon joined on the hot, dusty road by others — rich and poor, ill and well, evil and kind, but like him all seeking something. By the time they could see it, looming in dawn’s early light, they were legion. “My God,” Nard cried.
The pilgrims were awed by the sprawling encampment they found there, in the specter’s shadow, a makeshift city of mud huts and sewer pits some had dubbed the Underland. Though rank and chaotic, it was a neighborly place nonetheless where folk shared their stories, their childlike excitement, and smoked meats while waiting for something to happen. But then, as the days passed, divisions set in. Wonder crystallized into religion.
“This wraith is the prophesized bird-god of Droog, here to hatch her deviled eggs.”
“Blasphemy! Spare us your scrambled myths. That’s just Hooneth, a minor nymph.”
“You’re both cracked. It’s the Blood Moon’s son. And it’s growing — it’s going to eat Creation…”
That scrum was where the cults came from. A chorus of “prophets” rose out of the din and most flocked to one or another of them for answers; the questions were all but forgotten. Nard Hardseed for one had joined the Wide Eyed, a small but particularly zealous sect that worshipped the taken girl, Lam Lan, as saint and prayed to be raptured too (although to where they weren’t so sure). A rival cult, the Heard, called Lam a sinner, so violence and bloodshed ensued.
In the end the Wide Eyed silenced the Heard and their herald, cutting out his tongue. But Brother Nard had been killed in the battle, his order’s first martyr, impaled on a pike. Their seer, blinded in the fight, directed the Wide Eyed to fell the tallest pyne and raise it to the sky. Then they hoisted Nard’s lifeless corpse to the top. “An offering, Lord,” the prophet announced.
Vultures circled. The Pendant watched.