Journey to Ábrelyn - Part II

Journey to Ábrelyn (a tale of Emélrenè) - Part II - the Elder Dark

The group of fosterlings made camp on a ridge overlooking a stream that ran down to join the upper reaches of the Gadén river. The sun set early, even though it was summer, passing down behind mount Negéros, now far to the west. Mists rose from the valley below, and a gloom gathered round the group.

Their elderly émhlèn guide, Erýnos, as he had done before, warned the group to keep close together, and not stray from the fire. Kélroth was still lost in thought, pondering the realisation that these steep hills and peaks were his true homeland. He went about his appointed tasks automatically, paying little attention to his fellow travellers. They ate a rough but pleasant meal, and when they were done, Kélroth gathered their wooden bowls and made his way down to the nearby stream to clean them.

Suddenly, as he was absent-mindedly rinsing their implements in the stream, an unearthly cry pierced the night. Such was the shock of this unexpected interruption that he dropped the last of the bowls, and it clattered loudly on the rocks, skittering away and into the water, washing quickly away.

He heard shouts from the campsite back up the hill, and turned to rush back to join them - but stopped dead in his tracks as he came face to face with a darkly clad figure.

Kélroth almost cried out himself, but the stranger's hand shot out and clamped firmly over his mouth, stifling any noise he might have made. The stranger drew the young man in towards him, and silently swung him round, pulling him back into the bank.

In the darkness before him, Kélroth 'sensed' but could not see another presence. The stranger holding him tensed, but still made not a sound. Despite this, Kélroth was keenly aware that the person holding him was strung taught like a bowstring. Many things flashed through his mind, but the most alarming thing was the definite sense that his 'captor' was, himself, terrified.

The presence before them shifted, and made a sound the like of which Kélroth had never encountered.

It was the sound of ancient sinews of the loamy earth tearing, rending, ever so slowly but ever so dreadfully. Waves of revulsion washed over him; Kélroth 'felt' the rotting-death, the foul-ever-dying-ever-living stench of ages that should long have passed but would not end... he felt the creeping cold of frost, of moulding fungus, the lapping tongue of foulest breath, the dank dark pit of deep despair... he wanted to moan, to cry out, to fall, fall, fall away... only the firm grip of the stranger held him fast...

He knew not how long he and his new companion stood frozen, transfixed. Suddenly, when he felt he could bear it no longer, a light flashed, across the stream and up high on the opposite ridge. The presence before them seemed to turn, equally suddenly, and with both lightning quickness and inexorable, unbearable, slowness, turned and 'seeped' up the slope away from them.

Silence and the darkness of the night enveloped them. Kélroth could not recall if he had breathed at all since he had been held fast. More moments passed, and all he could hear was his heartbeat.

The empty darkness of the night was then, once more, torn by an unearthly cry, and then, an awful, rending, screeching that seemed to fall away, away, away... as if falling far far away...

Only then did the stranger let out a low, shallow breath, and seem to relax, easing backwards into the soft moss of the bank. The hand over Kélroth's mouth was released, and he was set loose -- at which point he nearly fell, only to be steadied by the stranger.

Kélroth began to thank his benefactor, but once more, this time more gently, a finger was placed on his lips. He barely heard the whispered words "Hush - danger - still". The stranger motioned back up the slope where the fosterlings' camp lay, gently pushing the youngster up the slope.

As quickly and quietly as he could, he made his way up the slope, and towards the camp. He could see no fire, but could sense smoke rising where the fire had been. The air seemed acrid, unpleasant.

Presently, they topped the ridge, and were at the campsite. In the gloom, and through the smoke that rose from what remained of their fire, he could see the group huddled under a great tree. Several strangers stood about, at watch. One murmured barely audibly to their guide, Erýnos, who looked up as Kélroth approached.

The stranger behind him gently directed Kélroth to the guide, and stepped forward.

"He's lucky, this one," said the stranger, and Kélroth was surprised at the soft tone; his benefactor was almost certainly a woman.

Erýnos nodded, and tense and worried as he clearly was, managed a wan smile, which flashed briefly, to be replaced by a look of deep chagrin.

"It's my fault. I should have known; should have sensed them...."

Kélroth's 'saviour' shook her head. "Not these, old man. They were far older and deeper than any even I have ever seen. It is a miracle we lost no one."

"We will watch the perimeter until sunrise," the stranger added. "Get some rest, Erýnos - and you too young man."

Kélroth was then overcome with an overwhelming sense of weariness. Erýnos helped him to his bed roll, and despite a nagging sense of foreboding in the back of his mind, Kélroth was soon lost to sleep. His dreams were filled with high peaks, falling water, deep forests.... and a darkness, dread and fell, older than the hills.

rwgrainger
rwgrainger's picture

Excellent

Excellent Fástred!

I'm hooked into the story big time now.

Thank you very much for sharing!

Richard

talkitron
talkitron's picture

Cool

I liked it as well.

hculpan
hculpan's picture

Entertaining

Very entertaining start to the story. Actually makes me quite interested to read more about Emelrene.

Fástred
Fástred's picture

Thanks for the feedback

Work is progressing on Part III....

Regards

Jeremy

---------------------
Fástred na Beréma,
Rowánti na Sávè-k’nôr


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