Mists of Kel Doran
Season 1 - Dragon-Touched
Episode 1 - The Weave of Fate
Chapter 9 - Weight of Indifference
Chapter IX - Weight of Indifference
Approximate read time ~ 8 minutes
An antelope walked through a meadow of highland grass. It perked its alabaster ears and lifted its nose into the air, the instincts of a wild animal. Satisfied, the antelope lowered its bony antlers and gave a gentle tug on a clump of grass, revealing shattered, red cobblestone. Behind the animal stood a broken wall, once home to a bustling inn. Beside the inn laid a collapsed roof, a nearby anvil still rooted into the ground. Hidden against the anvil hovered a piece of bone; but not just any bone, one carved with deadly intent. This shaved piece of bone gripped the end of a long, wooden shaft. Behind this shaft of wood knelt a hunter, his hand steady and his breath still.
Berran stared down his prey, grazing in the outer quarter of Wyvern’s Rest. The animal bolted as the arrow exploded through its chest. It raised high on its hind legs, then collapsed to the overgrown street.
“Nice one, Papa!” came an excited voice from behind the anvil. A small boy lowered his bow and released the tension on his own bowstring. His scraggly hair was tucked behind his ears, falling to his shoulders. A dirty, yellow band wrapped around his head, keeping the hair from dangling in his face. The little boy tugged at his band as he raced into his father’s outstretched arms.
“Thank you, champ,” said the hunter. He studied his son’s green eyes and beaming smile. He saw the tears of joy wash away layers of dust, and the long scar down his face. Berran smiled back, knowing a full meal and a good night’s sleep awaited them for the first time in weeks.
The hunter smiled and said, “come on, Devyn. Let’s go get your sister.” With a nod, they stood up and hiked through the abandoned street in search of their prize. Crumbled stone lined the street, now home to acres of highland grasses. Devyn caught a horrible scent in the air and brought his hand up to his nose.
“People actually used to live here, Papa?” the little boy asked, his face contorted by the foul stench in the air. Why? he wondered as his eyes fell back across the old cobblestone.
Berran chuckled, “well, that was a long time ago…before you were born, even.” His smile faded while he recalled his old home. “It was magnificent,” he said as his eyes unfocused.
“She’s amazing!” came a high-pitched call from street. Devyn and his father looked to see a young girl, standing proud and waving her hands in excitement. “It’s perfect, father!” she said. Elan was a tall girl with dark, wavy hair. Freckles dotted her nose and cheeks, a blend of adolescence and dirt from living on the streets. The young girl smiled as she brandished a bloody hunting knife, beckoning her family over.
“Hurry up, let’s get it ba…,” Elan spoke. Berran caught a subtle change in his daughter’s tone. Elan’s arms were still in the air, but the jubilant expression had left her face. The young girl’s body made two subtle motions as her expression turned blank. Her knife hung from her outstretched hand, then fell to the ground. Elan staggered, collapsing near the fallen antelope. Berran looked in horror as three crude spears protruded from his daughter’s back.
Several stooped, pale creatures crashed through the grass behind Elan. They pounced on her fallen body, and stabbed furiously. The sickening sounds echoed off the nearby walls, drowned by the shouts of Elan’s father. “Nooooo!!” he screamed. He knocked an arrow and fired, striking one of the creatures. The shot knocked the beast off Elan’s body, but the others continued their sadistic tirade. Elan, riddled with wounds, flinched with each strike, but her body was lifeless.
A few creatures saw the arrow and lifted their bloodless eyes toward Berran. With a scream, they bolted toward the hunter and his son. Berran fired another arrow, striking a creature in the face, but several more raced around its falling body, undeterred. He looked down to his young son and yelled, “Run! Devyn, you must run!”
“But Papa!” the little boy cried as he clawed at his father’s outstretched arms. “I can’t leave…”
“RUN!!” Berran screamed as he pulled another arrow from his quiver.
He pushed his son away and spun to draw his bow. With tears in his eyes, Devyn turned and ran through the abandoned streets. He ignored everything he saw and everything he heard. The boy put one foot in front of the other…and ran.
Devyn heard the arrows, he heard them hit their mark, then he heard his father. The screams were brutal and shrill…and then they were gone. Silence fell over the outer quarter. Devyn jumped over broken walls and ran through empty squares. His feet were bleeding and his heart was crying out. For an hour…he ran.
The boy passed under a gate and stood at the entrance to an old market by the sea. He looked up to a crooked wooden sign as it swung back and forth from the morning breeze. Dragons flanked the words “Guilded Wyrmling”, though some of the letters had faded from view. He looked beyond the worn doorway and saw darkness.
He stepped into the old inn, with a final glance through the gate and the streets of Wyvern’s Rest. Devyn entered the hall to the sound of laughter and music, though he could feel none of it. With a heavy heart, he sank against a wall and collapsed. The crowd erupted as someone bolted through the kitchen doors and ran upstairs, but Devyn sat in the corner, shaking. The fragile young man closed his eyes, and darkness consumed him.
The outermost region of Wyvern’s Rest, known as the Outer Quarter, spread from Castle D’Vayne to the Abyssal Sea. It was home to bakers, merchants, guilds, inns, and was the center of activity for a thriving community. As the fortunes of Wyvern’s Rest waned and the great city fell out of favor, residents of the Outer Quarter moved inward, beyond the walls. Initially, they spread to the Inner Quarter, a series of squares and merchant quarters that comprised the original city limits; however, the city could not sustain the mass exodus of families, traders, and merchants. More and more settled near the City Core, the inner most extent of Wyvern’s Rest and home to some of the oldest buildings in the Venteri Highlands.
As a result, the Outer Quarter crumbled, along with the City Walls that protected it from the nearby highlands. Vagabonds and mercenaries claimed the nicest buildings for themselves, but they too left. In time, highland grasses, trees, and the decay of civilization overtook the abandoned streets, now an extension of the nearby wilderness. Campfires and primitive lean-to’s replaced proper structures while the outer city walls crumbled under the weight of indifference. In this center of neglect and abandonment, an army grows; a loose-knit band of ragged warriors born from the farms and caves of the Highlands.
At the center of this sprawling, tent city stands a large, colorful tent. While most of the tents bore the colors dirt and clay, this one was clean and proper. It did not bear the weight of the wind, standing strong over the mass of canvas and ripped cloth.
From this large tent stepped a grey bearded man in long flowing robes, manicured beard, and pointed eyebrows. Such a man would typically be found amidst wealth and ambition in the capital city of Sephyrae. Even Wyvern’s Rest hosted its share of silk-robed, pompous elites; but the dilapidated outer quarter stands as a testament to days long passed.
The robed man surveyed his command. Clustered around the fire pits stood hundreds, if not thousands, of small man-like beings. Their backs were stooped and their skin a pale, vein-speckled white, glistening in the early morning sunlight.
A commotion erupted nearby. The man heard the sound of unintelligible screams, followed by the snap of wood. He whirled around to witness a fight among one of the smaller clans. Their tent collapsed and the combatants rolled around, fighting over something clenched in their hands. Onlookers gathered with taunts and jeers, reveling in the commonplace act. A large, heavily armored creature stepped up, armed with a whip. When he approached the fight, the onlookers dispersed in terror.
The enormous whip crackled through the air, followed by a thin murderous line across the back of one of the combatants. Seconds later, the whip looped around the fighter’s neck. The taskmaster gave a firm yank, sending the helpless creature to the ground. A plume of dust shot skyward as he landed on his back, the whip still clenched around his neck.
The grey bearded man looked on as the taskmaster approached its victim, clawing at the whip. A pale blue hue took over the fighter’s face as he struggled to breathe. When the taskmaster arrived, he raised his metal boot, then stomped on his victim’s skull. A chorus of bone and blood shot through the air as the pale fighter’s head collapsed into the dirt. With a look of satisfaction, the taskmaster withdrew his boot. A sick, sucking sound followed as blood mixed with the dirt and dust of the Outer Quarter.
The flamboyant man winced as a hush fell over his command. He looked again at the other combatant. The alabaster-skinned fighter rose to his feet, a small piece of cloth clutched in his hand. With pride, the fighter stretched the cloth and wrapped it around his head. It was only then that the full weight of the fight fell upon the man.
As he looked around, he saw them for what they were, a lecherous, battered group known as the Macaran. Their skin was ghostly white, tinted in hues of yellow and green. Their pale, colorless eyes resembled something more animal than human. This fight, this murder, was for a scrap of cloth. He noticed that few Macaran had clothing at all, those that did commanded a sense of regard from their peers. Since most Macaran owned nothing, the acquisition of cloth became a contested, bloody battle for a piece of the civilized world.
The robed man lived among these creatures. They did not share a common tongue or common goals, yet he found himself at the head of an army bent on one goal…conquest. He surveyed the encampment…as far as he could see, twisted forms of human flesh were ready to serve his bidding, all under the promise of wealth and revenge. Ravenous beings from across the countryside gathered, hidden amongst the rabble and collapsed indifference of the Outer Quarter.
The walls unmanned, and the gates unbarred, all signs of defense had left the once great city. Wyvern’s Rest was now home to brigands, mercenaries, and those poor enough not to leave. The robed man eyed his prize…there was nothing that could stop him.
A chorus of cheers welcomed the returned of a hunting party. The hunters carried their spoils of war across wooden poles as they made their way through the sea of hungry mouths. Tied to the poles were three bodies: a large, highland antelope, a man in ragged clothes and leather armor, and a young girl, still wearing a look of shock. Ravenous mouths awaited their bounty watered as the poles were mounted across fire pits.
Taskmasters and Chieftains flanked the old man as he pulled a single coin from his pocket. He held it in his hand and twirled it between his fingers while he weighed his decision. After a long moment, he raised his head and set his eyes on the City Core, deep within the heart of Wyvern’s Rest. He saw the masts of a ship docked in port, and the rooftop of an old inn, its second story hovering over the inner city walls. His pensive expression turned to resentment.
His words rang within the Macaran ranks. Taskmasters sprang to action while their whips crackled through the cool morning air. Small divisions formed, each with its own malicious intent. As the bearded man looked out across his ranks, he raised his hand skyward. With a flick of his wrist, they were moving. With the city core as its destination, the army marched forward.
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Mists of Kel Doran