Saturday, 27 April 2013

Xiphoid



[Continuing the theme of my Epic Fantasy, ‘The Daighacaer’ (“Day-gar-care”); Extract from Book I, Escape from Mount Vilipend]
[Pronunciations:  da’que (dark) – an equine mortal being of The Lighte which worked in harmony with other mortals and carried them on its back when the need arose.
Background:  The fight against the senior darzim’s stronghold was successful and all the darzim involved were despatched to The Underdarke.  This scene occurs after several days of calm.
The Lord Dayl was already low in the heavens and everyone in the camp was either eating their evening repast or readying themselves for sleep.  Weda’Sel, Tirǽche and Urus too were enjoying a leisurely break from the day’s many responsibilities.  As he sipped on his drink, Urus noticed the scout group returning at an unusually hurried pace.  He stood immediately and started towards them as they rode in, their da’ques already foaming from exertion.  Weda’Sel caught up with Urus and the two leaders glanced their concern to each other.  
Stend was leading the scouts and, before his da’que had even completely stopped, he was off her back and running towards Weda’Sel and Urus.
“There’s trouble ahead” Stend panted.
“What sort of trouble?” asked Weda’Sel and Urus in unison.
“We came across a scouting party a little way away from here but it’s the strangest I’ve ever encountered.  There are only three of them.  The one who was riding in the middle is larger than anyone I’ve ever seen before.”  Stend took a deep breath and continued “actually, as I think of it now, it may simply be his bearing which makes him appear so large.  They’re all wearing armoured coats which shimmer in the light.  Their da’ques are all tremendous beasts and all three of them are also wearing armour.”  Stend was scrambling to get his words out and Weda’Sel could feel that there was something more to his story than s simple meeting three armoured strangers on a road.   
“Stend,” said Weda’Sel sharply and Stend turned to look at Weda’Sel, the whites of his a sure indication of his alarm “the sight you’ve described isn’t at all out of the ordinary.  We haven’t come across scouting parties that often but from what you’ve said, these three seem to be scouts from any of a number of places.  Why have these three struck such terror into you?”
“Weda’Sel, it was their crest”.  Even to Stend his own words sounded ridiculous and he shut his mouth with a snap.
“What about their crest, Stend?” asked Urus compellingly.  He knew Stend, nothing scared him.  Whoever the three were, he was mortally afraid of them.
“What about their crest, Stend?” echoed Weda’Sel.
“It seemed to come alive as I was looking at it” muttered Stend.
“It came alive?  How?” demanded Weda’Sel. 
“More importantly, how could you see the crest, Stend?  Were you that close to them?” asked Tirǽche.
“That was my thought too, Tirǽche.  How did I see their crest?  They were still a long way off and yet the crest appeared to be right in front of me.  While I was thinking about that, the crest filled the sky above me and appeared to glower at me.  I was mesmerised.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the crest.  It was as if it was drawing my very essence into itself.”
Weda’Sel and Urus looked at each other.  Stend had started visibly shaking.
“How did you get away from whatever it was, Stend?” asked Urus.
“I don’t know.  Those with me were as helpless as I was, although I don’t think they were also drawn into the crest.  They appeared to be held within a form of vortex and, although they tried to move, they couldn’t.  I could hear them calling to me in the distance but couldn’t respond.” 
The other scouts were nodding vigorously as if afraid to speak of what they’d seen.
“What did this crest look like?” asked Weda’Sel.  He was very concerned.  What Stend had described sounded like the work of an ether darzim.  Stend was right to be worried.  If they were dealing with an ether darzim, they didn’t have much in the way of anything to protect themselves.  Weda’Sel knew that he could take on an ether darzim and probably win but there was no guarantee of that.  What worried him even more was the possibility that there were more than one of the things.  Due to the very nature of their being, mortals of any kind were almost powerless against them.  Even Blade Dragons were seldom able to counter attacks by ether darzim.  He didn’t know where to even begin to work out what they were going to do.
“What did the crest look like?” asked Weda’Sel again. 
“The top section of the crest is a Blade Dragon with its wings encircling a woman holding a staff -”
“Are you sure, Stend?” asked Weda’Sel in alarm.  If it was possible, he appeared to become even paler than he normally was “You’re sure that it was a Blade Dragon?”
“Yes, Weda’Sel.  As I’m standing here, I am sure that it was a Blade Dragon.”
“And the woman?” asked Weda’Sel.  “What about the woman?”
“She was holding a staff –“
“What did she look like?  Can you remember?” pressed Weda’Sel.  Urus and Tirǽche exchanged glances.  The rest of the scouting team stood silent; ready to react in an instant even though appearing to be at relative ease.
“She had long black hair, flowing down to her waist.”
“What was she wearing?  This is important, Stend; vitally important.  What was she wearing?” repeated Weda’Sel.
“A robe but not a robe.  It was green but not green.  I don’t know how to describe it further.”
Weda’Sel was almost beside himself. 
“Where are these three now?” he almost barked.
“They are probably about to enter the woods we were in when we saw them” replied Stend.
Weda’Sel grabbed Urus by the arm.  “I know who they are, Urus.  I know who they are!”
“Who?” asked Urus and Tirǽche in unison.
“I saw them when I was dying from hypothermia.  They are in mortal danger.  The odour darzim which I inadvertently allowed to escape from Vilipend is stalking them.  Their crest appearing in the sky to Stend and the scouts must have been a means for The Lord Dayl to warn me.”  Weda’Sel hung his head for an instant and then, as he was giving instructions to Urus, he started running.
“I have to get to them.  I am the only one who can save them” he shouted over his shoulder.
“Your da’que –“began Urus.
“No time.  I’m faster than a da’que.  Don’t come after me.  I have to do this by myself.”  Weda’Sel lifted one arm in salute and then he became a blur as he sprinted as fast as he could towards the three people making their way along the ill-defined path towards them.
Urus immediately called for his da’que and for any other mounted scouts who were available. 
“Weda’Sel said you weren’t to go after him” said Tirǽche although she, too had called for her da’que.
“I didn’t hear him say any such thing.  He was too far away for us to hear any more than that he had no time to wait for his da’que.”  Urus was grim-faced.  “I will not allow anything to happen to Weda’Sel.  What if his vision was wrong?  What if he’s playing right into the hands of The Darke?” 
Stend and Tirǽche nodded.  Tirǽche was waiting for her da’que and Stend and the other scouts needed fresh da’ques if they were to be of any use at all.  Urus felt immense pride in all of them, particularly Stend who must still have been terrified by his experience.  Urus’s da’que sprinted up to him and, with one last look at Tirǽche, Urus started to run by his side and only jumped on to his back when he had gained full stride.  This put Urus way out in front of the party.  He was desperate to catch up with Weda’Sel. 
As he turned a bend, he could see Weda’Sel already far in the distance.  Weda’Sel was loping on all fours, his long hair flowing behind him like a mane.  It was a sight which, even for Urus who knew him well, momentarily caused an aeons-old fear to arise once more.  Banloghs were of The Darke.  Weda’Sel may be different but banloghs were of The Darke.
Ahead of Weda’Sel Urus saw something not much larger than a speck which soon became three specks. 
He saw them stop and then, as if in slow motion, he saw Weda’Sel stumble, try to continue running and then crash to the floor.  Urus watched in horror as he saw Weda’Sel try to get back up on to his feet again. 
They’d shot at him and their aim was true.  Urus and his da’que almost flew through the air, racing to get to Weda’Sel before the three specks which were also racing towards him.  As he was riding, he was shouting – at Weda’Sel to stay down and at the advancing trio to stop shooting – both of which were in vain.  Weda’Sel still tried to get up.  Urus’s lungs were almost bursting from exertion and he knew his da’que was also giving his all.  He had to reach Weda’Sel first.  He wanted to be beside Weda’Sel.  He wanted if he had to, to take the arrows intended for his leader. 
He was within jumping distance of Weda’Sel when a further arrow arced and found its mark.  Weda’Sel slumped on the ground, this time completely motionless.  Urus ran to Weda’Sel and saw the large pool of blood begin to form under him.  His fury erupted and, with one movement, he released his sword and, screaming at the top of his lungs, he raced headlong towards the advancing foe. 
Through his bond with Weda’Sel he could feel that Weda’Sel was failing rapidly but even as his friend was losing his fight to live, Urus ran to avenge him.  Suddenly Urus felt Weda’Sel call to him through their bond.  “Don’t, Urus.  They don’t know who I am.  They saw only a banlogh.”
Urus ignored Weda’Sel.  Again Weda’Sel called to him “Urus, I need you.  Please don’t leave me to die alone.”  Only then did Urus turn and run back to Weda’Sel.  He wondered why he hadn’t been hit by any arrows.  He didn’t have time to care about that.  He knelt down beside his friend, gently moving Weda’Sel’s head on to his lap to make it a bit more comfortable for him.  He pulled his tunic off and tore it into strips.  With the strips, he tried to stem the flow of blood from the puncture holes in Weda’Sel’s thighs and arms.  There were so very many wounds.  The foe had riddled Weda’Sel with arrow-shots.  Urus pulled off and bundled his under-tunic into a loose ball which he carefully but firmly held against Weda’Sel’s chest where one of the arrows had, mercifully, hit Weda’Sel square on his xiphoid cartilage which probably saved his life.  The arrow ricocheted off him, leaving only a gaping puncture.
He could see his people in the distance advancing from behind him even as the three in front of him, who were much closer, moved inexorably and determinedly towards Weda’Sel and himself. 
“If this is to be our end, my friend, at least the most important people in the world to us will be able to avenge us” he said aloud and then looked down as Weda’Sel tried to cough.
“This isn’t right” whispered Weda’Sel.  “The crest they’re wearing, it’s the same crest.  They’re in a wood just like in my vision.  One of the three is larger than the others and looks to be the leader.  I was meant to help him, the leader, overcome the odour darzim.  This wasn’t meant to happen.  It isn’t the same as my vision.”  Weda’Sel gulped from the pain of talking.
“Shhh, Weda’Sel, don’t try to talk.”  Urus didn’t know what else to say.  He could see Weda’Sel’s blood flowing into the grasses next to the path.  His friend’s life blood was seeping away and there was nothing he could do.  Tears of frustration and anger poured down his cheeks.  There was nothing he could do to save this valiant person’s life. 
As Urus rocked Weda’Sel gently in his arms, he knew with certainty that their foe would arrive long before Tirǽche and their scouts did.  In silent acceptance, he held Weda’Sel and awaited their fate.  There would be fighting this day and his people would die.  Urus’s heart broke for that too.  
*
“Why does a druid protect this banlogh?  Who are you?”  The voice boomed above Urus.  He brushed the tears from his eyes and lifted his head, even as he held Weda’Sel even closer against his bare chest. 
The largest of the men was standing directly over Urus with his hands on his hips.  The other two stood at a little distance with their bows at the ready.  Their enormous da’ques stood off to one side.  Even though Urus had to look directly up at the man, he wasn’t intimidated, he was enraged.  The words he spat at the man were venomous in the extreme.
“This ‘banlogh’ is saviour of and leader to thousands who, with his help, escaped Mount Vilipend.  Our scouts came across you and were terrified by the vision of your crest which rendered the scout leader senseless.  ‘This banlogh’, whose name is Weda’Sel, believed that the manner in which your crest appeared to our scouts was a directive from The Lord Dayl to urgently assist you.  He instructed us all that we weren’t to follow him as this was something he needed to do on his own.”  Urus’s face became a deep, pulsating red in a fury which he found himself unable to contain; which he didn’t care to contain; nor had any intention of containing. 
The foe looked visibly shaken as Urus continued.  “He was on his way to protect you!  He was trying to protect you from an odour demon he believed was about to attack you.  Protect you who fired on him for no reason other than that he is a banlogh.  Why do Yldryf shoot without ascertaining the danger first?  Who are you that you ignore the tenets of The knowledge of Ages?” 

My poem is for both Weda’Sel’s pain and bravery

We Stand

In the shadow of the blasts

We stand
Bloody
But
Unbowed

Against the tide of terror
We stand
Bloody
But
Unbowed

To smother base and evil
We stand
Bloody
But
Unbowed

Until history turns once more
We stand
Bloody
But
Unbowed

2 comments:

  1. More circular chatter, but it won't save their existences! Though the druid will help. Hardy chap!

    ReplyDelete