Trail to Sacramn
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Trail to Sacramn
Chapter 1: Departure and wolves
?Walk the cobbled road north. The path goes far, towards the evergreens of Missefth, past the wilderness of the black men, to be joined by others alike and become the great Silver Way as it nears the capital of Kolim, close to the edge of the world.
?You will not walk as far as that, though your destination may be just as distant.
?Depart the road in the town of Ferri and seek the mountain trail there. It climbs towards the Steps of the Sun, where blind priests live. They will bother you little, with stories and advice. Kind they may be, but do not seek shelter with them for they ask for a greater price than you may ever be able to pay, boy. Remember that well!
?The trail circles around the snowcaps for three days, so pack well from Ferri and from the priests if the herders may be close. Pray a herder may be making his journey back, and you can accompany him. It is towards their settlements that the trail leads and it is there that you may truly rest yourself. The mountains are treacherous, but the goat herders are sturdy men and you would do well to steal, even if a little, from their sage advice.
?Ask them for the way to Sacramn but answer not their questions. They are welcoming to strangers, fast to laughter, fast to banter, but there have been many lost in the mountains, sent along treacherous paths. Be wise and speak little of your mind.
?When the cold of the snowcaps is but a memory and you have discarded your furs - you will not need them again ? the great Yellow Plain will be spread as far as your eyes may carry. Walk proud through the tall grass and pay no mind to the great cats or the striped horses, nor the laughing great dogs and the giants with floppy ears. Intrude not amongst them and no harm will befall you. Rest often, for the heat is deceiving there and to lose your strength so far from humanity is the staple of a great fool.
?Keep to the compass as the herders instructed and in a week?s time you shall come upon a great marsh. Do not fear the mud or the water; there is solid ground just a finger?s width beneath. But walk leisurely and merrily, and keep in mind where you are headed. Lose your heading or your good humor for but a heartbeat and the Murs will be upon you, with curious eyes and prying hands. They are small and ugly and froglike, but they are many and they are quite insisting, sensing the stranger in their land. Be confident and they will leave you alone as you reach the great wall of Sacramn.
?Walk along the wall to the wooden doors at the edge of the moors. They will be unguarded yet locked; the only sign upon them a doorknocker. Raise it with all your strength and rap upon the doors just twice. A third one will not be answered, a forth will be answered by an arrow that rarely misses.
?Wait to be allowed inside and ask for Angar. If you have companions, leave them behind as you are led to his home.
?Bow to him and offer your gift. Only when he asks for you to rise may you tell him your purpose. If he does not and leaves, remain there, on your knees, for a day. If he does not return, leave with your head bowed in shame and never return to his house. You will not be greeted well.
?Prepare your bag boy. There is little left for you here. And I have too little now to keep you around.?
Such were the words of my father to me. My father who had spoken so very little to me before that eve, now sat by the fire and smoked his pipe, absentmindedly massaging his wooden leg. I had listened intently to his instructions and had nothing more to say to him. I even slept like a babe that night, despite my long journey ahead. There were too few ties for me there.
As dawn cracked outside and the first roosters were sheepishly crowing on fences and rooftops, I was already on the back of an oxcart, patiently awaiting my departure. There was the smell of morning smoke in the air, and the chill of autumn?s rapid approach. Still the villagers rallied their cattle towards the grazing fields. Women wide in girth were returning slowly with sticks or whips in hands, talking slowly amongst themselves. Cow bellows and bells broke the otherwise frigid silence.
With a jolt I felt myself setting off. The cart had begun moving, the driver walking slowly next to the two massive oxen, only rarely whipping them harshly back into alert motion, along with a ?Hais!? on his part.
The village fell slowly behind as the light got stronger and I could see the morning smoke rise higher, denser than earlier. Pyres were probably lit again in the fields, with the night?s dead farm stock and villagers. Still, life carried on, rattling and creaking at the seams; it went on for those that I had left behind, too stubborn, poor or stupid to leave. They were those so like my father, himself at that time probably ambling slowly towards the horse stable, having already made ready the plow for its work.
Riders in rusted armour started passing us by before the noon sun was high. Sometimes alone, sometimes in twos or threes, oftentimes alongside carts full of corpses; they were surely riding towards the pyres in the fields, back to the village that was but a speck on my horizon. The riders looked grim and most of them exhausted and holding their swords rather attached to the saddle than their belts. The sounds of shoed hoofs on the cobbles echoed for a while after they had passed by, only to gradually die out.
I soon moved to the front, holding the reins as my travel companion ate and rested. He was a very old man, slight yet strong despite his appearance; I had seen him often loading the cart alone, and even harnessing the bullocks, alone, with just a whip to help him. He was in no way impressed by the road he had travelled so many times, and lay on his back on the sacks of grain, smoking his corncob pipe. I was amazed that the illness had not taken him, as I had often been amazed to see my father out of the home, working seemingly without a care, healthy as a bull. That comparison holds no real meaning now.
That first evening we ran into a patrol of soldiers. The men were weary, and the horses shining with sweat, though it was surprisingly cold then.
There were three of them, and a fourth could be seen far off in the meadow, his head bobbing up and down between the stalks of corn. I believe he had been the unlucky one to be patrolling off the path. The other guards were spread out on the side of the road, or lying on their backs in the ditch. On the harvested field nearby, a few hundred paces away from the road there was a fire dying out. One of them went and rekindled it as the others came and barred our way.
We were kindly asked to present ourselves for inspection, though their swords were always just in reach if we were to refuse. We did not resist, of course. We undressed as they asked and were checked for the signs. It took little time for them to do so and, mercifully, we were dressed once more before the chill could creep into our bones. I helped them unload the wheat and opened up each bag for them. The wheat was to be properly checked in Ferri, and then further along in Grivertorch and Priess, but for the time being a hasty inspection ensured our own health more than anything.
The oxen were healthy and we were soon allowed to leave. The sun had however gone too low for the road to be safe anymore. We did not carry a great provision of oil for our lamp, and were none too keen to be using it as early as the first days of travel. Wolves had taken to prowling in the north and it would come in handier there.
The guards, whom we?d learn were called Matei, Daniel, Andew and, the fourth one riding in the meadow, Gabriev, were thankful for a bit of company for the evening and an extra pair, or two, of eyes for guard duty that night. They laughed at the idea of one of us trying to slit their throat while they slept.
?If you?re traveling these parts now, with healthy wheat and healthy farm stock, your very least of problems would be a few guards checking out travelers?, Daniel joked by the fire that evening. ?Slitting our throats is not even worth the effort in these light forsaken times.?
Night under the starry sky, next to a rarely traveled road, surrounded by nothing but the vast expanses of moors and crops shuffling, is unsettling. I was not left alone on watch. Matei took the shift with me close to midnight, only sending me out to bring more stalks to the fire.
?We?ve been watching the roads for days, you know.? He spoke in a whisper, careful not to wake the others, or even the oxen. The cart was next to the road, a stone throw away from us. ?It?s not like the sick are wondering the roads nowadays. You?ve seen them in your parts, haven?t you??
I simply nodded. The memories of them were not pleasant ones.
?You know they can?t get far if they try. Sure, there?s the eventual one that?s just been infected and can carry it to the next town, but it?s so rare to see one nowadays that all this guard duty is just a waste of time and men.? He took a sip of wine and listened to the stale sounds of the fields. I moved closer to the dying embers, feeling the cold?s dark grasp on me. Somewhere, distant, a wolf howled at the half moon in the sky...or so I would have believed.
?Indeed?that?s the exact reason we?re here now.? I could not grasp his meaning and simply nodded as he got up and walked to the others, kicking Daniel and Andrew awake. I could not understand why they remained laying there as he returned to the fire.
?There?s always one damned fool that gets one God awful idea in times like these. Some magical trinket, some incredible poison, some crap shield?all set to backfire in some horrible way or another.? He sat hunched over the fire, his eyes closed and a look of the most intense concentration about him. Instinctively, I looked around and listened. Nothing came to me.
?Some fool, some appalling fool, got it into his skewed little mind that there is a way to oppose the sickness, to live through it. He thought the wolves were immune?or rather the werewolves. Some idiot, or some manner of Demon worshiping trickster, bought into the tale that you transform into a wolf and that?s that, fairytale come true, you become human when the moon dies in the Heavens. And he?d be safe; everyone would be safe that way. Ain?t that the most convenient thing ever??
A wolf?s cry sounded stronger now, as if it had gotten closer. I felt my heart shrink with every beat. Matei stabbed at the fire with the scabbard of his sword, eyes still closed.
?So the werewolf bane?s begun. Folks know crap all about them and suckers?there are plenty of suckers.?
We are the undead lovers. Sleep, only sleep. No need for hunting, no need for haunting.
Feed each other with each other's soul.
Just like leeches off one another...to devour the self, to leave the body, exchanging our pleasure and pain in a forever repeating circle
Until all shall die out and we shall be dragged out of our eternal grave by the wrath of the END, judged and burnt by the light of the Supernova...we shall revive in another world"
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