The Legend Mountains

From The Kinfire Tree:

DESPITE HIGH SUMMER elsewhere, it was bitterly cold in the far north.

Icy winds came off the towering Legend Mountains in the distance. The giant slopes were covered in snow almost to the point where rock met land, capped with dark, threatening clouds. A storm brewed there and it boded ill for the two travellers. They were not dressed for it.

In sharp contrast to the whiteness, the wasteland they crossed was ochre in colour. Loose dust puffed up with every step as if they walked in low gravity and it blew up into their faces with every gust of icy wind. Already they were barely distinguishable from their surroundings.

It was an empty land, abandoned, lonely, and frighteningly different. There were no trees. There was no water. The only tangible objects on that vast plain were edged, black pebbles hidden in powdery dust that served to trip.

Averroes could not believe she was born here, that someone took her across this to the south.

They had been walking for hours. Vannis said she would instinctively know where to go, but she felt nothing other than burning thirst. They had not brought enough water; she had one swallow left, as did Kylan.

Would this never end? The barren ochre plain stretched in every direction. Only the mountains to the north relieved the disheartening vista. Now that stirred something within her. Did it mean they needed to walk all that way?

She groaned aloud.

“Averroes?” Kylan said hoarsely behind her. He was a wonderful companion, ever uncomplaining.

“I’m fine; just wishing I knew where to go.” Her voice, she found, was equally gruff.

“Wait, Averroes, I see … what is that?”

Kylan, when she turned, pointed at a patch of black growing in size as they walked. It was on the ground directly ahead, and she had not even seen it.

“I don’t know.” Her heart commenced an uneven rhythm.

As they drew closer, the black patch materialised into a perfect circle, recessed, about three feet in diameter.

“It’s not natural. Do you recognise it?” Kylan queried as they halted at the edge of the sphere. It was smooth like stone eroded by the ceaseless movement of water.

She shook her head and knelt to touch. It was warm and there was a minor vibration under her fingers. She placed her hand flat on the surface, and it moved. Snatching her hand back, she stumbled away from the edge and pulled Kylan with her.

“It’s moving!”

A circular tube rose perpendicular to the ground and halted at about seven feet, still attached to the earth.

“What is that?” Kylan asked, passing a hand before his eyes to check his sight.

“No idea.”

They heard a whooshing sound. What appeared to be doors retracted into the sides of the cylinder.

“I have read something about this. I don’t know what you call it, but I think one travels in it, up and down. I think we’re supposed to get in.” Kylan was clearly uncertain.

“This is technology, then? Can we trust it?”

“Unless we want to walk to nowhere without water, we have no choice. Vannis did say the half-Valleur were underground. Come, take my hand, we will do it together.”

They linked hands and approached.

Aboard the Calloway

From The Infinity Mantle:

The sea soothed and nurtured for the next two days, the water a beautiful blue, the weather a silent comrade. Tor Island vanished from view as Bertin steered his vessel out in a wide arc before turning south.

The fourth night at sea marked Valaris’ Full Moon, and all passengers were on deck, including the three Guardians swathed against Bertin’s incurious gaze, to mark its glorious blue passage across the wide heavens. It rose early evening and kept them company into the early hours, and as it set the others went below, Rayne taking over the helm.

Bertin muttered something about the tides and pull to the full moon and elected to remain at the helm until potential danger passed, going to sleep only when Rayne insisted they would need him fresh for the entrance into Actar later that morning.

It was exactly fourteen days since Infinity’s treacherous game commenced.

Then the dark water rose in gargantuan ramparts straight out of watery hell, some lifting the ship high above sea level, others crashing defiance onto the deck, almost succeeding in driving the tiny vessel into a netherworld grave. Without lines they would have swept overboard. They hung on, unable to bellow fear, sometimes tossed like rag dolls before smashing back onto the splintering deck.

Bertin negotiated the storm for over an hour, in deep dark, each turn more sluggish as the sail tore and tattered, and the cabins below filled with water. The hatch had long since vanished into the monster’s maw.

It did not let up; only intensified. Brutal winds screeched and deafened. Every wave was monstrous, every breath a forced swallow of liquid salt. Still they forged on, praying to their various deities, praying for Bertin with all their strength. If the weather did not change soon, the beleaguered Captain would surely lose the battle, for his ship already was.

The weather did change.

For the worse.

A dog barks

These are the last excerpts about animals in Lore of Arcana, this time from The Dragon Circle. Don’t know if I have the gumption to find similar excerpts in Reaume and Sanctum … reading these, knowing the situations surrounding each, well, it can stir up emotions.

  1. Two, three months ago, Galilan’s population housed in this manner would have spread over the countryside for many sals. Now he noticed empty lots where children amused themselves.

He smiled upon hearing a dog bark – kids rescued their pets first. There were bound to be a number of cats and hamsters, canaries … and you are now rambling.

2. Together they made their way through massive snowdrifts up to the longhouse. It was the logical place to find survivors. Closer, they heard at last the sounds of civilisation; children crying, the murmur of voices and, incongruously, a cow mooing, and a dog barked and it was the most beautiful sound.

They reached the door. Snow packed up against it, trapping within the survivors. Vannis waved a hand and cleared the powdery obstacle aside while Torrullin concentrated on the weight above; it appeared particularly unsafe.

When Vannis grabbed the rough wooden handles, he prayed as he never prayed before. He loved Raken and he could not imagine the empty years ahead if she was not inside this building. If anything happened to her, Torrullin needed to stand in line. No quarter whatsoever. He drew breath, with Torrullin tense beside him, and pulled the door wide.

The smell of stale air and human and animal waste sent him reeling backward, gagging.

Torrullin stepped past him into the gloomy interior as voices rose in relief.

There were several people inside, but the gloom and noise made it impossible to judge who and how many. Torrullin brought forth a globe and sent it into the rafters, the glow illuminating the interior. He noted the rafters held up to the weight of the snow; the building would hold up to another onslaught.

Then none of that mattered as the reality of human suffering confronted him. Silence had fallen, other than for a child’s fearful sobs and the incessant barking of the dog.

3. In the glow, a crowd of faces young and old confronted Torrullin and Vannis, their faces pinched blue and drawn with hunger. There were far more than they expected to find, but far less than the number in Linmoor. They were also too many for the small space. Some took huge breaths of the freshening air.

“Can we take at least some of them to the Palace?” Raken begged, eyes bright with tears as she watched with aching heart how Torrullin made food for the solitary cow and dog.

The dog licked his hand and he stroked it before moving on to a group of chickens in another corner. He waved a hand and a bag of chicken feed materialised for them, some of which he scattered. A raggedy cat slunk out from behind crates and he called it over, lifted it to a high place above the chickens where he gave it food and let it eat there in peace.