The Newer Lands

Imre's Dream Journal: In Summer's Height
Himber Calodand

194 FV The Western Lands

The sun has been at my back all morning as I ride into the foothills. It has been three days since the druid Tae-eran sent me forth in his place, and today I will fulfill his duty. I crest a hill, and there across the valley I see my destination, Mareth’s Menhir, and in the haze of the distance I can make out a handful of figures camped beneath it. The hobgoblins await.

My name is Imre Calodoccer, and I walk without fear in the lands of my enemy.

Of course they see me coming, and of course they do not ride out to greet me. As I draw near, I see they are four, counting a bugbear. One of them is marked with the caste-painting of a High Hob, another is dressed in the style of their mystics. There is their spirit caller. Why does she look so familiar? Have I foretold this? And why do they all look as if they have lost a fight? The bugbear can barely stand, and I can see even from this distance that those are fresh rope-burns around the noble’s neck. I don’t like this. Tae-eran said to expect only one. I fiddle with my mask as it hangs around my neck, I want to be sure that when the time comes I can draw upon its power quickly.

As I arrive at the base of the obelisk, I can see that the ground has already been cleared for the ritual. I dismount as she stands and salutes me. ‘I welcome you, Shaman, and invite you to a Working. I am called Beya Jael.’ Her command of my language is passable, but as this is their land I return the salute reply in theirs. ‘I thank you, Shaman, and I will Work. I am called Himber Calodand.’ Their faces fall as I show that I can speak Goblin and I frown. Something is deeply wrong here.

Beya looks as if she was going to say something more, than stops. The noble glances at the bugbear, then the mystic fixes me with his stare. The sheep’s tooth growing within my upper jaw starts to vibrate. Attacked at an invited Working? This is treason I thought beyond even the hobgoblins! My teeth bare as I reach for the mask and the first syllables of power beat inside my heart. Then I hear the tooth, a tiny little voice crackling and popping deep within my ear. human this is a trap it says, we are watched. they strike after the binding.

Well. That changes things. It is still foul treason, but now I know these four as the enemy of another enemy. My arm continues its motion to grab the mask, but instead of wearing it I bring it to my side. I turn back towards Beya. The nod she gives to confirm the mystic’s words is barely perceptible. With a flash of insight, I realize that this must be the Band of the Yellow Horse, and that noble is the Yellow Horse Bandit himself, finally caught by the High Hob’s armies.

‘We were expecting Tae-eran,’ she says, in a loud voice designed to carry.

‘Tae-eran lies dead,’ I lie instinctively, matching her tone, trying to trace the splashes these words make in the spirit realm, ‘struck down while wearing his feathered cloak.’ A curse from the bugbear, but there! Another half-dozen hobs, hidden through an arcane ritual…

‘Shaman Himber, shall we begin the Working?’

‘Shaman Beya, let us begin the Working,’ I reply, as I put the others from my mind.

We walk to the cleared ground. I draw my dagger, and trace out a circle, deosil. She does the same, only widdershins. Each time we cross, we place a rune. Three cycles, and the ground is set. I place my mask over my face and take the bite between my teeth. I feel the mask settle over me, the eyes turn from side to side, the mouthparts twitch, and I breathe in the Hornet King’s power, earned for a year and a day by right of victory.

I lie down, supine, and still my breathing. My heart slows, my limbs grow numb, and after not more than a minute I RISE. The marks from my battle with the Hornet King are still fresh on my body, black and yellow staining the scars. I relax my shoulders, today is not a day in which I will be carried beyond the Gate. There, the obelisk, fading runes glowing orange upon its black surface. There, the ambush, and a druid, but his eyes are not upon the spirit realm. There, Beya’s spirit body, she also draws upon a great power as I recognize Glacier’s blue.

The ritual itself is quick work, the fixed runes must be re-drawn and new ones added according to the horoscope, apprentice’s work except for the speed needed to place the new binding immediately after the old one is removed.

We dismiss the instruments of marking, and return to our bodies.

I wake. The circle is more crowded than it was a minute ago, the other three have taken sanctuary within it. As I get to my feet, ignoring the offered hand from Yellow Horse, I see that the other hobgoblins have arrived. The circle is still active, the six grooves flicker with power and the runes we inscribed blink on and off in their dance.

They have a war-captain, who also wears the paint of a noble, a druid, and four soldiers armed with bows and swords. The druid steps forward, and starts to speak words of summoning, that’s a dangerous deed here even after a binding, but if I hear him true he’s calling to Shadow and not the Pit. The circle wasn’t built to withstand a shadow beast. I can see the smugness in the eyes of the captain. He is thinking of the rewards he will earn for the head of Yellow Horse, the news of Tae-eran’s death, and the death of this young shaman from the eastern lands.

On our side, we have Beya, two unarmed hobs, an unarmed bugbear.

And me.

‘What manner of treason is this, War Captain?’ I ask. ‘Why does your druid call forth demons in this place?’ I end the question in a trilled ‘r’ directed at the summoner, hoping to disrupt his call, but he’s good enough not to be fooled by such tricks.

Behind me I can hear Yellow Horse whispering to the bugbear and the mystic, and the first wisps of stillness as he grabs his power.

‘You speak to me of treason?’ the captain replies. ‘You stand there in the company of rebels and call us the traitors? You should never have come into our lands, Shaman, my man shall bind your soul to mine, you have doomed yourself to my slave until Heaven ends.’

I wouldn’t have thought their druid would have been able to bind much of anything, but he’s doing a remarkable job with that summoning so far. Shadows burst from the ground around him, and swirl.

The others in the circle are stirring, knowing that they won’t be made bait for an easterner again. Beya is whispering something I can’t hear. ‘Let me show you where my soul is bound, War Captain.’ As I speak the four words I realize we are in harmony, and I suddenly know why Beya seemed so familiar.

‘TO ME, MY BROTHER,’ we shout, and the world vanishes in thunder as HE arrives as I have never seen HIM before except in the fields beyond the Gate, the great spirit bull, my BROTHER our BROTHER time stops as HE rises from the earth as HE descends from the sky, there HE crushes the war captain under HIS hooves there HE gores the druid and shakes the shadow beast from HIS horns, our circle dissolves how could we raise it against HIM our BROTHER, the re-bound Mareth shakes and trembles in fear of the BULL.

A blink, and I realize that the bugbear and Yellow Horse and the mystic have charged, have seized the war captain’s arms, and in seconds the four hob soldiers lie dead.

I look at Beya and know that my goal of driving the Green Men and all their kind back onto their ships is doomed, for how can I lift a hand against my BROTHER’S sister?

HE is here, next to us, and I know what HE wants. I take my flint knife in my left hand and make a cut in my right palm. Beya takes a bronze knife in her left hand and makes a cut in her right palm. Our hands meet, and the blood mingles. Is this a hobgoblin’s blood that flows now in my veins? No, it is my sister’s.

The words of prophecy burn in my throat and I speak the poem. My senses are dulled by the effort and I can comprehend only the last few words. ’...and first between. I see your doom, Sister, it sprawls upon the sea coast far to the north.’

Beya speaks, and I hear the future. ‘In summer’s height, look to the Lark Ware masters two, of children dark It is not them, that make the stain A devil’s pact, infernal gain Guarded firm, but not forever The landing site, of Hell’s own lever. I see your doom, Brother, it glides grey upon spring rains.’

Thunder roars, and our BROTHER leaves. I give her my flint knife, she gives me her bronze one. What more is there to say? I salute, and turn to leave. Yellow Horse stops me. He knows enough not to talk about shaman business, but instead asks ‘are you to be Tae-eran’s successor? Has he told you all?’

I stare at him. ‘No. Tae-eran lives,’ another gasp from the bugbear, ‘and he has told me nothing.’ I pause. ‘I have learned enough. Good day to you, Yellow Horse, I do not wish to see you in my lands.’

I mount my horse and depart. Tae-eran will have some questions to answer when I return to his tents. I have hardly spoken to Lark, I must remedy that. Around me, the spirits call imre imre imre imre.

LARK’S LANDING 206 FV

With a bark of surprise, Imre awakens on his narrow cot in the inn where he and Wil have taken lodging.

‘huh wuzzat Imre is sumthn wrong,’ mutters a three-quarters asleep Wil.

‘te Whil-ri shou——no, Wil, nothing’s wrong, go back to sleep.’

Imre’s right hand is throbbing, the old wound swollen and painful. ‘In summer’s height,’ he whispers.

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Imre's Dream Journal: Mid-chase Checkup

The party arrives at the last rise before the monastery. No one says a word as they rein in and prepare to change horses one final time. Imre leaps down from his mount and reaches for the—wait, why isn’t Wil going to his alternate horse? “Wil? You should get a fresh horse for this final charge…”

Even as he says the words, Imre realizes that Wil’s horse, although exceptionally nervous, shows no sign of exhaustion. He frowns. The half-elf is clearly capable of great destruction, but he would not have guessed that he was also capable of channeling such restorative energy. He wrestles with his curiosity, and loses. Surely he can risk a quick glance into the upper world …

... i rise. the trees the grass glow yellow, my hand red with murder the dull weight of the skull behind me slowly fading here are serge here are devar there my gaze caught by wil his aura gyrating if i could move my spirit body THAT way i’d but no the horse how is the horse what has he done to the horse there is something wrong i reach for the aura i am trapped no there is no me to trap but i cannot move what is this the horse the horse i look it splits it branches there are two there are four there …

The others see Imre take a step towards Wil. He stiffens, and then collapses onto the ground.

there are a thousand horses a million there i am pulled free ripped free i waken

He blinks and rolls over. He’s lying on the ground bleeding from his chin. The others are rushing to him. “Another ambush?” “No he just collapsed.” “He better not do that when it counts.” He slowly gets to his feet. A return that sudden will leave him aching for days.

He ignores Serge and the Pelor man. “Wil Varis. What are you? And what did you do to that horse?”

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Imre's Dream Journal: Stable Preparations

Imre smiles to himself. The deep forest magic is a pocket full of sugar lumps.

the town men are busy, this is my chance, that priest Devar is fiddling with his fetishes, the Wil-creature is, no, let’s not think about what he’s doing but he’s looking elsewhere, and Serge, where did he find the time today to put horns on another man, if Rolli wants to stay with these men maybe we should saltpetre his food for our own safety from jealous husbands I’ll talk to him about that later but now is the working

Imre puts one arm around a post and grabs it with his other hand. His eyes roll back, his head droops, and he starts to stumble.

my spirit body leaves my flesh i see the room with my true sight, the sky tide is ebbed, the aurae of the horses and devar are a gentle blue serge’s and the woman’s flushed with red all as expected, wil is a churning mass of yellow and green and that’s not a color and wait he’s looking at me how is he looking at me he should be facing the other way he was facing the other way i can still see his material body and hes facing the other way but hes still looking at me but its not a spirit body it cant follow me i must go

Imre’s sprit form rises. He can feel the presence of Old Man River, but the path to the Gate is clear and he rushes into it. Into darkness.

where am i i cannot see my arms my legs my mouth i eat i move i eat i move a tremor a disturbance my body pinched folded brought to light ROBIN i greet you ROBIN i hail you ROBIN my body my own my drum in hand i beat the rhythm i fly til i find him my BROTHER dear BROTHER BULL oh my BROTHER the WOLF he runs i cannot follow him my BROTHER oh i beg you my BROTHER run with him so the WOLF is not alone

The great bull regards the little shaman. With a puff of his nostrils

my body flies, i clap three times CLAP in darkness CLAP i hover above my self in the barracks CLAP i return

Imre straightens up and releases the pole. He blinks to clear his vision and re-anchor his senses in the material world. The deed is done, der Wolf will have company on the trail.

“Wilandris, dear sir do you know where your old friend Rolli is? ...”

Wait, now Wil is facing him.

how could i be so careless

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Wil Varis's Log: Still On This Damn Boat
Journal Entry 2

Journal,

I hate traveling. By Ioun’s fecund balls, I hate traveling. Either it takes us ten times as long as it should on account of jackassery and monsters, or it takes us five seconds, then I throw up, and then we get jackassery and monsters. I mean, I just killed a dragon. Giant flying lizard from a hell-cave. Think about that. Flying thing from underground. We’re on the open sea. It boggles the noggin. It’s not all bad though, even if the guys keep pointing out that the sea is pretty much a giant really-deep river. They’re good company. Annoying some of the time, but hey, you can’t pick family. Falraen’s boss though, man I hate that lady already. She just gives me a vibe, like one of those everybody-we’ve-ever-met-who-ended-up-stabbing-us-when-we-weren’t-looking-and-sometimes-when-we-were vibes. I wonder how well she can swim in that armor. Then again, she could probably pop back up to deck. Once. If she can see the deck. Shall make a note of this.

Otherwise, things are pretty good, journal! We’re on a field trip and I think the guys are going to not-murder Malich when we’re done! That would be pretty neat. It takes a lot to get over wanting to set every wizard on fire, so making this one exception feels like a big watershed personal growth moment for me. Which means it better be the last for awhile, I don’t know that I can handle too many of those one after another.

Guess I should go now! There’s some commotion on the deck and I think I’m needed for something-or-other. Those necks don’t snap themselves, journal.

-XOXOXOXOXiaiaXOXOX,

WIL!

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Game One
A letter from the good captain

Summary:

Click here for log1

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