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Author Topic: [Story] The Horn  (Read 2866 times)
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Bleak Knight
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AKA Draug


« on: August 09, 2006, 12:22:17 PM »

Eirytha ran hard and fast, long, slim legs speeding her across the plains, the wind strong and fast at her back. She was not fleeing, she was not hunting, but she ran nevertheless. Because she could. The pale, cloud-veiled sun shone on her face and golden hair while her calves caressed golden grass. A good, solid spear in her hand, the only sounds accompanying her and the wind was the whisper of her woolen clothes. Running came to her naturally, and she had embraced it as her gift.

When she was a child, toiling on the docks of Port Esben, she had never been allowed to run. Then, when her manacles rusted and broke, she ran, and she had never stopped. For many years, the tundra had been her home, until she turned south again. She had not seen the sea in a long time, that hated, dark abyss which would seek to pull her down and close her in. She still had not laid her eyes upon that old enemy. Now her sea was the golden grass of Eris Aman, and she needed no ship but her legs. Here, she was free, and at home. She had sensed that truth from the moment she had first seen the grass, three full moons ago.

She heard them long before she saw them, the sound of their beasts of burden carried through the air, their stomping hooves causing violent jerks in the gentle swaying of the swordgrass. Coming to a smooth halt, she closed her eyes to listen to, no, to feel the wind. There were thirteen mounts to the south, all but one bearing riders, and they were being hunted. The air was heavy with the beating of the creature's wings. She had not been in this golden land long, but she had learned to keep her distance from that sound. The Rudthrynn – Redwinged – were fierce and cruel hunters, more vicious and savage than any beast she had ever seen before.

Once more, her legs set in motion, but this time, she ran with purpose. She reached the foot of her destination just as the wind whispered to her the death scream of a Dorn warrior. Gritting her teeth, she sprinted up the hill, and fell to a crouch behind the gray old cedar tree that waited for her.

The sky to the south was filled with pale dust as thirteen four-legged shapes sped across the grass sea. Behind them, a huge creature swooped in and out of the sun. Its leathery wings and scaly body, easily the size of four horses, were a dark red, the color of the blood it left to stain the golden waves it called its hunting ground. Eirytha had made up her own story of how those creatures hoped to color all this golden sea red with blood, the better to hide their presence. She knew better though. The monster did not need to hide, for its kind were kings of the plain.

She had run fast, and though the riders were still far off, she could now hear their desperate cries, the piteous screaming of a horse as pale talons ripped into it, picked it up and let it fall to the ground to die. This Red-Winged was playing with its victims, as they often did. Biting her lip and knowing there was nothing she could do, Eirytha sighted out her next hideout, abandoned her pitiful concealment and ran towards the horsemen. Perhaps, if the Redwinged carried off its prey, there would be something left to salvage, and if it left anything uneaten, she must prevent the dead from rising.

She reached the stones, the gray island of jumbled rock whose shadows she hoped would hide her, the wind giving her a gentle push as she lept from stone to stone. A greedy, gloating roar greeted her as she landed softly near the top. Crawling forward now, sticking to the shadows, her hand touched something slick, and she jerked it back. Her fear was quickly replaced with awe, as she stared at the battered metal that glinted weakly in the sun in front of her, and the bleached bones it encased. Had this dead one crept upon her?

The bones were old, and those of a warrior, that much she knew. Perhaps those of a knight or lord. Its armor was battered and rusted, but the gilding and scrollwork was still visible in places, and she could feel its fainted strength and beauty under her hand as she let it trace the curves of the metal. In his right hand, the warrior clasped a sword hilt, its blade long since rusted to pieces and strewn across the stones. The left hand clasped a horn, and pressed it tightly to a lipless mouth. The brass mouthpiece and encircling rings had long since turned to green, the once whitewashed, polished bone been chipped and faded, ancient blood staining it around the mouthpiece.

With care, Eirytha loosened the bony grasp around the horn, and took it in her hand. As the last fleshless finger let go, the hand slipped from her grasp, shattering upon the stones. The joints rolled across the stones, their sound reminding her of the clattering of the dice she had heard so often in Port Esben, bringing back the memories of a childhood of drunken beatings.

The beating of wings drew her back to the present. What had seemed an eternity had only been a heartbeat, and as she looked up, the Redwinged had circled around, bearing down upon its next victim. She pressed herself into the stones as the beast came over her and passed by. Once it had passed, she peered over the stones to follow the monster's flight. Swooping low, the beast slowly crept upon its prey in a soundless glide, its mouth hanging open to reveal stained, jagged teeth. Eirytha felt her hands clench around spear and horn as dread clenched around her heart.

Seeing his doom approach, the rider gave up flight, turned his mount and lowered his lance. Spurring his pale white steed, he headed straight for his enemy, the spear point glinting in the sun. “Death!” he screamed. “Death!” She heard his voice, keen and clear over the stomping of hooves. “Death!” The spear point closed with its target, aimed directly at its mouth. The beast roared in reply, and the horse bucked, the panic-stricken animal veering sharply to the side at the last moment. Still, the rider held his lance true, thrusting with all his might towards the open maw.

He missed, the lance slid along the Redwinged's neck, and was deflected into the ground. The death he had challenged snapped shut around the warriors body, the sound of crumpling metal accompanied by a spray of blood Eirytha could see a hundred paces away. As the victor rose to the sky, a taloned claw tore into the horse, brutally severing its head from its body. The steed toppled instantly, driven into the ground by its own momentum before any blood had time to spurt from its severed neck.

The beast climbed into the sky, the limbs of the hero dangling from its mouth until it let him tumble from the sky to the ground and disappear in the grass. An old hate gripped her heart and replaced the fear at that moment, as she remembered Prince Esben, the wrinkled old man, and how he had people thrown from his lighthouse tower if they disobeyed him, how they had screamed as they fell to break upon the stones and wash into the cold, dark sea. She remembered the story saying he had even thrown a daughter from that tower.

On the plains, the riders were turning, accepting the futility of their flight. Their mounts plowed through the swordgrass sea as they lowered their lances, taking the enemy head on, roaring their battle cries in defiance. Ten silver points bore down upon the Rudthurynn as the beast swooped down. Just before impact, the Redwinged let out a loud squawk, and veered off. For a moment, Eirytha thought it had given up the fight. Then it sent its tail smashing into the central rider, shattering the spine of the horse and crushing the warrior to the ground.

Looking down at the helmeted skull, she felt the old bones watching, the hollow eye sockets challenging her, daring her to action. Old bones that had died a warrior's death, killed by whatever ancient foe had landed the mortal blow. A cruel, bloody death, but a proud death. A Dorn death, a death as a warrior, the power of which still remained in those hidden, forgotten bones she crouched beside. A death, she realized, like the deaths the riders faced now. Within a heartbeat her fear, the sense of hopelessness inside her, turned to rage. Within another heartbeat, that rage turned to pride. She looked a last time at the bones, feeling a power flood into her. I am like you, like those men out there, and your strength and your pride is your gift to me. I shall not squander it.

If she was to make a stand, if must be now. As the Rudthurynn veered in to attack the now scattered Dorns, Eirytha rose to her feet, abandoning the shadows of her hiding spot, her eyes taking in the deaths, her mind recalling the cruelties she had abandoned, but that would never abandon her memory, her heart taking in the willingness to fight for the freedom she had tasted. A fresh wind fondled her yellow locks as she breathed deep and put the horn to her mouth, tasting the old, so old bronze and blood of the mouthpiece.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2007, 12:18:16 PM by Nifelhein » Logged
IORNBORN
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« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2006, 01:09:15 PM »

Good start!  Lets have the rest of it now hear! Out with it!

IORNBORN
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Bleak Knight
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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2006, 10:31:30 AM »

Her lips hardened against the cold, dry surface as she drew the final air filling her lungs in through her nose. She felt the power now caged in her longs, felt its urge to rush out of her. She let it, forcing it out with all her might.

The blast of the horn tore through the sky, roaring bloody defiance. The Rudthurynn had opened it's mouth to unleash its foul voice, but the horn's call blotted out all other sound, seeming to shake even the boulders Eirytha stood upon. She held the tone for as long as she could, and felt it drop slightly in pitch and fade quickly at the end as she ran out of air.

The beast had abandoned its victims and was climbing to the air, its head turning from side to side, searching for the sound's origin.

Taking a step forward, she blew the horn again, even harder this time, and by the time she let it go she could taste blood in the back of her mouth. Now, the beast had found her. Storming down from the skies in a violent spiral, it roared its challenge to her, daring her to stand. Gripping her spear, she stood and answered, a third call, a deep, proud tone rising in pitch as she leaned into the spear, willing it to hold.

Blood-colored wings blotted out the sky and the breeze of the plains were drowned in the stench of rot. The next moment everything went dark, something snapped – hard – and Eirytha found herself lying on the ground, pain flaring in her back. Darkness flowed in the periphery of her vision, and her ears roared with the sound of blood. Through the rush of blood she heard another sound: a beast in pain and anger.

Struggling to her feet, she saw the broken haft of her spear stick out of the Rudthurynn. But as she regained her feet, the creature conquered its own pain. A yellow eye gazed into hers, and promised a cruel death. The eye became two as the creature veered towards her, and Eirytha prepared to die. The shock of impact had staggered her, there was nowhere to run to, no shelter to seek, and she froze in incomprehension and indecision. Her body betrayed her though, and saved her at the same instant. Legs buckling from weakness, she fell backwards, landing hard beside the armored bones. Claws scraped along the ground, seeking flesh but finding the wrong target. Splintered bones cascaded over her as rusted armor shrieked and crumbled. Then the rush of beating wings was past her.

Realizing its mistake only when it had climbed high into the air, the Red-Winged let out a long, rasping growl of frustration, and let the armor fall. As it could turned to come again, an arrow shot out of the plains, catching it squarely in the chest. Though the beast still came, the shot had staggered its attack. Eirytha felt talons closing around her, fumbling around her body. She was lifted up, but then the killer lost its grip, and she tumbled down upon the rocks again. Hanging upside down in the air, she could see the red wings fly away, the yellow-eyed head turn to see her fall, and then she hit the ground, and the world went black.
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Bleak Knight
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AKA Draug


« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2006, 01:07:42 PM »

When she awoke, she was blind. A gasp escaped her, as she tried to jolt upright, but the pain in her back drove her back into the ground. Then she saw the stars of the night sky, and calmed a little. It was only night. Only then did she become conscious of the pressure applied across her body. Was she restrained? No. Then what?

“Bandages,” a man's voice answered. Trying to twist to see the voice, she saw the faint glimmer of starlit steel off to her side. “The last I had, but you needed them. Not to mention deserved it”. The voice of the speaker was raw and clipped, and as he emerged into her vision, he at first seemed to conform to all the norms of a great Dorn warrior. He squatted beside her, a blue and gold-plumed helmet tucked under one arm, pressed between pieces of engraved steel plates covering arm and torso, which were underlined by iron rings. A short red beard covered his face, but his head was shaved clean except for a little stubble that had started to peek out from his scalp.

It was only as her eyes managed to focus in the dark that she realized the blemishes of the image. His clothing was ragged and filthy, his beard no more than unshaven stubble and dirt. His pale blue eyes were yellow and blood-shot, underlined with large dark rings. The armor was scarred and beaten, tied with hempen rope where the leather straps had failed long ago, and intricate canyons coved the torso, where valuable metals had been peeled away long ago. The man – no, boy – was too small for his steel carapace.

“Easy girl, you're safe now”. She wanted to protest, she was older than him by all probability, but found herself too weak. “The bastard got you in the side. Luckily, it was more in the back than the front, and your guts are still in place. More than it can say for itself,” he added with grim satisfaction. “Did you...” she inquired. “Yes,” he interrupted, handing her a cup of water. She drank deeply as he helped her raise her head. “Now rest, or you'll probably die as well”.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2006, 03:32:34 PM by Bleak Knight » Logged
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Against the Shadow  |  Forum  |  Midnight & RPGs  |  Games and Stories (Moderators: Kane, Bleak Knight)  |  Topic: [Story] The Horn
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