Author: nathan hale PM
Hirk, an orphan child of misfortune, sees a military representative demonstrate the innate powers of the people of Panelema, revealing his own powers. Fearing forced enlistment, he runs. Four years later, he is caught and brought into the military under penalty of death for desertion. He finds the military better than he suspected- until tragedy befalls his unit. Reviews returned!Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 23 - Words: 44,036 - Reviews: 42 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 10-22-12 - Published: 09-29-11 - id: 2956765
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Tarn's got quite a few soldiers here, doesn't he?"
"So does Damon," Umbra noted. "And a few other Families. Why do you choose to take from Tarn?"
"Tarn believes that what the people give him is rightfully his, although they just pay tribute out of fear. I like the idea of stealing from someone like that."
"What are you talking about?" Hirk asked into the darkness.
The two of them sighed simultaneously. Footsteps resounded around the blackness, but Hirk could never see who was talking.
"I don't understand why you can be here," the voice rasped lightly.
"Wait. You're Anelans, aren't you?" Hirk asked, suspicious.
"By birth, yes."
"Are you trying to steal information?"
For the first time, laughter resounded through the air, bringing light to the dream, the and it was as if a veil had been lifted from Hirk's eyes momentarily as the voice cackled its musical merriment. Yet, the source of the voice was still hidden.
"No," it said in between cackles. "I hadn't even thought of that before. It's just crazy! No one remembers what they dream, right?"
"No," Hirk replied.
"I remember your voice," he mumbled as he awoke. Hirk sat up and looked around to see if he had woken anyone up with his mutterings. Nobody roused. Sighing, he grabbed one of the daggers and walked towards the fire pit, where only embers remained of the campfire that roared the night before. Assuming a cross-legged position on the ground, Hirk closed his eyes, holding the dagger up in his upright palm, and focused. Tabak appeared as he transformed the dagger into a liquid state, and he watched intently as Hirk took a finger and dragged a strand of the liquid steel through the air in snaking patterns.
"Why?" Tabak asked.
Hirk shrugged. "Helps me focus."
Tabak took a few silent steps towards him. "Why do you need to focus?"
The finger stopped dragging the metal through the air. With a sigh, Hirk gathered it all up in his cupped hands and made the dagger again.
"I don't understand these dreams. What are they, and why?"
"I don't know, but maybe you should worry more about that," Tabak said, pointing down the dirt road. There, a cloud of dust was rapidly racing towards the camp. The dust caught the morning light strangely, and it almost seemed as if it were blood red. No, it didn't just seem red- it was red. At the front of the cloud, a ragged horseman rode right at the camp.
No one else was awake. Hirk stood and waved down the horseman, who slowed down as soon as he saw him.
The rider dressed plainly; Hirk had dressed similarly when he was running from the military. Bloodshot eyes twitching about wildly, and black and blue bruises accentuating his bony figure, the horseman spouted out his message.
"The river- I mean the bridge- it's out, and the messenger that came through here yesterday- he went missing. This is his horse. The bridge! I haven't seen anything like it! Must be the work of gekido."
"Shhh! They do not like the sound of their name."
"Alright," Hirk said, confused. "I'll go tell my supervisor, and we'll fix it."
"No!" the peasant nearly shouted. "Turn back. Do not anger the gekido by mending what it wants broken!"
"Will do. Now, how far is it to the Celer?"
"Two leag- aren't you turning back?"
"Yes, yes. Go along, now. We'll definitely turn around."
The villager looked ecstatic. The saddle rocked as he waved his arms in victory.
"The gekido will not be angered! We are saved!" he shouted, then rode off in the direction from which he came.
Scratching his head, Hirk walked over to where Largas was sleeping and shook him awake.
"Worthless piece of- oh, hey, Hirk. What's up?"
Hirk quickly recounted his experience with the crazed messenger. As he listened, Largas rubbed the stubble that had been accumulating on his chin and sides. When Hirk had finished, he continued to rub his chin for a while longer.
Largas cleared his throat. "The guy sounds like a looney, don't he? But he seems really scared about them gekido things. I think it might be a good idea if we just sent a couple of us to go investigatin', and perhaps we could find a way ta fix the bridge, eh?"
"Couldn't we just cross a different bridge?" Hirk asked. Largas shook his head.
"The next bridge's a number of miles east, and there ain't no trails leadin' from here to there. We'd break all our wagons tryin' to get over there. We got a couple earthslayers here, so I wanna see what we can do about this bridge."
"Fair enough," Hirk said, starting to walk away from him.
"Wait a second, there," Largas said, standing up. "You're goin' with us. Ditch the jacket, grab some ragged old pants, and meet me here in a half hour."
A small group had gathered around Largas when Hirk returned. Around him stood Blue, Gidana, Mitsune, and Conivir.
Mitsune's voice rose above the sound of the waking camp, "Why in the Abyss not?"
"Mitsi, baby, when have ya ever acted like ya aren't in the military? I need somebody that can act like they don't got a pole up their-"
"Largas," Gidana warned.
"Hirk, ya here? Get over here! Conivir, Mitsi, ya gonna stay here. Blue, Gidana, Hirk and me are goin' to go investigate. Make sure nothin' bad happens while we're gone, okay?"
There was a soft thud as Conivir and Mitsune slammed their left fists against their right breasts.
The four of them started down the road. It didn't take long before Hirk noticed the red dirt beneath their feet.
"Why is this dirt red?" he wondered out loud.
"Clay," Gidana responded. "Since we're near the river, there's a lot of red clay, which has dried up and kicks up red dust."
Hirk mouthed a silent "oh" and continued walking.
Nobody seemed to be in the mood to talk. The air was stagnant, as if the wind had decided to take a break while they walked. Added to the heat of the rising sun, the travelers were soon drenched in their own sweat.
"Good, now we really look like travelers," Largas said after some time. Nobody commented, or even reacted. It was as if the heat had stolen their energy. Hirk shrugged, following the group in the back. The remainder of their walk was in silence.
A steady rush of sound came from ahead as they spotted the small village. At first, Hirk thought that the wind had finally picked up, but it hadn't. The sound got louder the longer they walked, and it resembled the wind less and less. All of a sudden, Hirk was hit by realization.
"Is that the river?" he asked incredulously.
"Ain't you ever seen a river before?" Blue asked.
"No," Hirk said quietly.
"Well, there's a first for everything," Blue said merrily.
No one came out to greet them as they got closer to the village. In fact, nobody was outside at all. Largas looked at everybody. Everybody shrugged, not wanting to break the eerie silence. A barren and lonely inn stood along the river. Motioning with his hand, Largas started towards it. He knocked gently before entering. A clerk stood at an empty counter, tapping her fingernails on the unfurnished wood.
"S'cuze me, ya got any rooms?" Largas asked.
The tapping didn't stop.
"Yo, ya hear?"
"Yeah, we have rooms, but why would you want to stay here?" she asked quickly, tapping her fingernails faster.
"Well, we were gonna cross the bridge tomorrow mornin'."
"What bridge? It was taken out."
"By what? The 'gekido'?"
The tapping stopped.
"Don't say that word," she hissed. "I tell you, that bridge was taken out unnaturally. I haven't seen anything like it. I didn't think they were real until it happened."
"When did this happen?" Hirk asked.
"Just a few days ago," she said, resuming her tapping. "I suggest that you leave this place. Most other people already have. I'm waiting for my husband to finish packing, and then we'll move out, too."
"One other thing," Blue piped in, "what about the horseman we saw a while back?"
"Horseman? The only horses we had in town were the ones that the farmers used to pull their plows, but they all left already. There aren't any horses in this town anymore."
The group looked at each other.
"Thanks for yar time," Largas said, and they all slipped outside the inn. They moved away from the inn and the river, towards the road from where they came.
Gidana grabbed Largas by the shoulder and turned him around.
"Largas, what do you know about these 'gekido'?"
He shook his head. "They're like wanderin' guardians. Ones without masters. But it don't make sense. See, they've only been known to show themselves at the extreme north and extreme south. The Ora is almost exactly the equator, and the Celer ain't far south of that. It's unheard of that they would appear here."
"Maybe we should check out the bridge ourselves?" Hirk asked.
The group consented, and it set out to the bridge.
There were a few gasps as they got close enough to see the remains. The bridge was made of stone, with arches underneath to support it in the middle of the river. Only the base of the bridge remained on both banks. The rest of it was split in half and sticking out of the center of the river at an angle, just barely breaking the surface. At the base of the bridge, where it was connected to the bank, the stone and mortar were split at a diagonal. The most bizarre thing about it was that it was completely smooth- polished even- where it was split.
"This didn't break naturally," Blue said.
"I'll say," Gidana replied. "Look here. The stone didn't crack in its weak spots. It looks as if something cut it. Look, even the steel reinforcement was split cleanly."
"Well," Largas sighed, "Looks like this was either the work of the spirits, or of a very powerful earthslayer."