The world of Atenn Pelian:
The Shepherds of Ylamphia
Legend of The Sccarabus
Shadows of Ylamphia
Legend of The Sccarabus: extirpation
At Owls Lar
(An idea for the opening chapter)
A Woodlander's Dream:
In the dark interior of a frozen forest, a woodlander and his family sleep. The fire in the downstairs hearth smoulders yet; its embers softly clinking. Blane Wülfrand twists in his cot, wrought by the action of a vivid dream.
Earlier that day, he had reprimanded his two boys for taking a horse from the wood. They had forgotten in their play that horses belong to neither man, woman, nor beast on the continent of Cirrus Frai, and that to be caught taking or using one carries a severe penalty. Wülfrand, the man, had had to remind his boys of the perils of breaking such a law. Before he had lain to sleep, he said to his wife, Isula:
'I was too harsh on them. I should not have struck them.'
'Better a stick today than a noose tomorrow.' His wife had replied, plainly, knowing just how unruly their boys could be, and knowing, too, the severity of the law.
'They're good lads, really.' he had said.
'When were they last good?'
The woodlander had to admit, he could not remember. And they turned to sleep with smiles upon their faces. But something else disturbed the woodlander; darkness wrested his thoughts; shadows came without light...
And so he stands in the moonlight, gazing into the woodland from the back gate of his cottage. All is still and quiet. The moons of Atenn Pelian hang as two bright crescents in a black sky: as eyes. Suddenly, a dark shape falls, passing across the light of each moon in turn. The quiet is broken by a hoarse voice: the call of a Vaalkh, but it is spoken in the language of another place, another era long since passed. Its spoken word is familiar to the woodlander in structure and tone, but he cannot translate it into words of his own language. Yet, he is alert to its meaning, all the same. It is a warning.
A glint of light draws him on. It flashes subtley, as would moonlight on water, there in the cluster of trees ahead. As he approaches, a yew, bent and twisted and old, straightens suddenly with a hiss. Its bole is sharp like a diamond fibre blade and it glints in the darkness, luring him, yet always out of reach. He rushes closer until he trips in the darkness and stumbles against the tree. A sharp leafless branch impales his shoulder. His mouth opens, gasping: a single howling cry emitted into the night.
Darkness is suddenly light; blackness has become whiteness. But he cannot see clearly, even though his eyes are open. His own savage cry comes finally to his ear in the thin air, quickly melting away into a lingering piercing screech that now rides like the flight of a swallow across a meadow away from the black wood and out across the plains and drifts of snow, low and swift. He has become that sound: that screech. He is flying at speed, with arms outstretched like a bird's wings,. In the plane of his flight he becomes self-aware and notices that he is without clothes; naked as the day he was born; stripped. He feels nothing: neither pain, nor sensation of touch; not even the wind against his skin; no taste, no sense of smell; only vague sight and clear sound remain. He knows there is cold from ice, but he feels no sensation of it. The meadow has become an expanse of ice and snow. As he looks down at his body, he sees his skin is pale and grey; it has no real colour. Gradually, he loses his ability to see, being left with only a kind of sense of direction and intention. Even as he listens, because this final sense is enhanced in the absence of those others, and it is all he has left, he clings to the waning drab of sound before it slips beyond audible range, wringing out each nuance of its form until, in a moment far too soon, all that remains is a sense of pressure curiously vieing with the sensation of being drawn into to a vacuous space. The note of sound, that he has now become, divides instantly into two notes folding open, and then into four folding and rolling upon themselves. Dividing and folding and rolling and multiplying. With each division he becomes physically smaller and his pace increases until, before too long he has become a bright sphere of intense light and sound that is racing faster than any creature can travel, across a plain of snow and ice, back towards the black heart of the forest. He has become sound, become light, at wavelengths far beyond the audible and visual range of man. In the briefest moment of time, he will collide with the darkness. He will split the black heart of the forest...
A winged shape rises, lost high in the light of the moons; the distant cry of a lone Vaalkh fades among the trees; and a wolf's eye closes in a blink. Tiny crystals of ice cling to its lashes as its exhaled breath hangs motionless in the icy air, and before its eye has reopened, the entity of light and ultra sound that is Blane Wulfrand passes into the trees and into the darkness, impelled towards inevitable collision: a cataclysmic coming together of opposing forces. The once twisted yew finally reveals itself as darkness, the ultimate opposing force. It bends its bladed limbs to surging light and sound...
Rippled percussive waves shatter even his dream__
Blane Wulfrand is forced to wake. He swings his legs over the edge of the bed, sitting bolt upright, alert. His ears pulse with the memory of sound; his body gasps to draw back the breath that was knocked from his body. He is perspiring, though it is the middle of veer-hin and the land outside is deep with snow. Isula had awoken during the first rapid movement of his legs before he rose. They had twitched at first, as a dog’s are apt to do when it dreams. From her perspective it had seemed as though he was running in a dream. She may have been right.
Blane’s staring eyes do not see, at first. There remains a sound in his ears and light in his eyes, lingering as some aftermath of an explosion. He drinks in lungfuls of air, supping it up, thirsty for its sustenance.
Awoken by a dream, it is a bad omen. Isula's fears rise. She reaches out an arm to her husband, but he is moving; gone. In an instant, Blane has sprung from the bed and is running. He knows not why and he gives it not a conscious thought. On the way, he scoops his bow from a peg on the wall and grabs a handful of arrows from his quiver. He has the bow strung and an arrow nocked before he gets to the stairs.
Standing on the last step he is charged with energy and with a prescience unfamiliar to him. He waits. In his head, the memory of a dry voice calls a warning, but he has forgotten its meaning. He takes another step. The bare wood floor is cold beneath his feet. In the angles and spaces of the treads of stair behind him, a shadow within a shadow lurks, not from him, but of him. Then, as suddenly as a wolf's eye opens, the front door bursts open in an icy rush of powdery snow.
At Felling Gar
High in the mountains of Napsay Hin beneath the roaking calls and black wings of soaring Vaalkh, lies the town of Felling Gar. Bitherak Wormsley stood with his aide, known only as Gavik, at the junction of three of its streets. Their presence in such a place had been determined by the choice of another who had deemed it a suitable venue for a meeting. Once upon a time, the merits of meeting in this town would have been plentiful, but that was long ago. The only merit Bitherak Wormsley could hope for was a favourable outcome to his appointment. Being a man of order and organisation, he liked to arrive early. The advantage, as he perceived it, of being early had converted his arrival into a minor triumph over the man he was to meet, and he allowed himself a smirk of self satisfaction before turning on foot to investigate the next narrow street in this hope-forsaken and frozen town.
'Best to be thorough.' Wormsley said to his aide. ‘I haven’t been here since... since the war.’ Wormsley drew the hood and collar of his long coat tightly around his ears and neck. The air at Felling Gar was mountain air, shot with meanness. What Wormsley did not know was that the fellow they were there to meet also had reason to be thorough, and to that end, also early.
Wormsley and his aide picked their way up and along the slippery streets until they came to an unlit alley snow-packed between the leaning walls of buildings which were in various stages of decay. Many of those buildings in a state of dereliction unchanged since the war. But there was life here. Signs of it were carried on the air, while others marked and sullied the snow upon the ground. Aromas and sounds issued from gaps in ill-fitting doors and broken window panes and bled into the alley. Smoke seeped into the atmosphere from chimneys high above.
'This is the place.' Wormsley said, pointing.
'People still live here? What a wreck.' said Wormsley's aide. 'I'll bet the night-life's a scream up here, literally.'
'People need to survive here as they do anywhere else, Gavik. Believe it if you will, they are a peaceable, traditional folk. Much has happened to them in recent years; stuff that would have your lilly white legs running for the first gondola home. No, there has been no running away for them. You’ll find none of your seedy bars and sordid entanglements up here.'
'Shame.' said the aide, who kicked at an upturned plastic bucket in the snow. It was frozen to the ground and did not budge.
'We're not here for their fine wines and gourmet snacks...the items on today's particular menu will be far from palatable; I would venture, indigestible.'
The town was steeped in a heavy air, almost tangible with the misty fastness of its cold. It held the sound of their voices close, muffling them to a level of intimacy. Gavik put his gloved hands to his mouth and blew hot breath through the fabric of them to warm his fingers. His brow curled over his roving eyes in a frown of dis-ease. Too many window panes; too many doors, and not enough people. He felt he was being watched.
Folded wooden chairs leaned frozen against a wall at either side of a door to their right. The chairs had remained unmoved during a season of snow and frost which had layered their horizontal surfaces and ice-welded them to the the building's flaking wall.
'This?' said Gavik, with contempt. 'This is the place?'
Bitherak noticed the compacted snow of the street, dirty and more concentrated near the door, and a pattern of countless superimposed footprints leading to and from it. Flaking and faded paint had crackled and lifted from the door's surface, the vibrant green of its original colour having faded to a non-descript hue. Obscure glazing admitted little light to the room beyond. The pale wooden door-knob, however, gleamed with frequent use.
'This is it.' Bitherak confirmed.
The aide tried the door handle.
'Locked. Or frozen shut.' His hand went to the little glazed panel of the door, and rubbed without success, in an effort to clear a patch through which to peer inside.
'Try the shutters.' said Wormsley.
Gavik pressed his face to them and saw a movement in the room behind, temporarily glimpsed, as he aligned his eye cautiously to a slit between the frosted laths. A silhouette passing through shadows, but a movement all the same.(MAKE MENTION OF THIS or refer to it later) He mentioned nothing of it to his employer. 'Tables and chairs.' he noted aloud. 'And a bar, by the looks of it. A tavern?'
He glanced at Wormsley, who raised his eyes to a hand-painted sign high up on the wall above them.
Gavik stepped back a pace or two and read aloud: ‘The Pelt and Whistle. Now this looks like a place I'd want to come back to.' Gavik added, with an immediate change of tone.
'I don't think they would be able to offer you the style and deprivation you are used to.' said Bitherak.
'Your meeting's in here?'
'Later, it is, yes.' said Wormsley.
'Some recce this is turning out to be. It's barely past dawn, everyone's asleep, the taverns are closed...and it's freezing cold.' His tone resumed.
'I like to be early.' Bitherak stated, flatly.
'I like to eat.' said Gavik, turning away from the shutter. His own gloved fingers prodded his belly. 'I'm starving!' he said, loudly.
'All in good time. Let me get appraise the lay of the land.'
'Are we expecting trouble?'
'With Weller, you always expect trouble.' Bitherak looked around the street behind him and then up at the roofs and chimneys. 'I want you here before me. Have two men sit by the door inside. Unobtrusive, natural. The best you can find. Pay them well.'
'You want me inside?'
'Certainly not. No. It would be best if you find a place down the street, out of sight, and wait there.'
'I can be nearby. If there's trouble...'
'Have you met Weller?'
'No. Never.' Gavik said, a little too eagerly.
'It's best we keep it that way. I can handle him, almost. Don't get close. Weller is not stupid. He will expect me to have someone with me, and he most certainly will not be alone. You are my eyes, Gavik...don't be looking elsewhere...at the ladies, for example.'
'If I was looking,’ Gavik declared with emphasis, ‘I wouldn't be looking for a lady.' A lecherous grin followed.
'Don't look at all!' snapped Wormsley. 'This is not a game.'
'You can rely on me, boss.'
'Right then, let's find somewhere to eat.'
The twisted mountain town of Felling Gar offered few choices to its visitors in the way of accommodation and places to eat and drink. The hour was as early as the rising sun even though the sun could not be seen nor the effects of its rays felt. Only a small Silt bar with no name was open to trade. It was serving the traditional beverage of Lam Tree Silt served hot in mugs with a slice of black bread. Their needs, in terms of anonymity and nourishment, were catered for in one sitting. Bitherak welcomed the distraction from his task, but found he could not eat. They talked for a while and Gavik ate his employer’s share of the bread. It was time for Wormsley to leave.