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The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 4 September 28, 2012

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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(grimm’s backstory continues…)

Six days without seeing the sky felt like a lifetime to Grey. The tunnels stretched on endlessly behind them, and day after day the Mountain kin melted away the rocks in front of them. The Wind tribes did their part as well, taking turns keeping the air fresh and silencing their movements.  Every so often Tairwyn would call a halt, assuring them it was night in the world above and they would all sit on the damp, chill ground and talk quietly over a dinner of dried meat and fruit.

Grey looked at the shriveled winter apple in his hands and sighed. “A week ago I would have given an arm for one of these.”

Tairwyn laughed and handed him a canteen of water. “A man can get tired of eating anything three times a day, every day. Still, we’re almost there.”

“Thank goodness,” Grey said. “Are you sure you don’t want to trade in those swords for some of our spears? You’re going to have to get awfully close to the wyverns to use them.”

“Bah, what’s the point of fighting the enemy if you can’t look ‘em in the eye?” Tairwyn said, flashing a broad grin from beneath his drooping mustachios. “Besides, if one of them tries to take a bite of me I’ll just turn to stone and break their teeth, and carve ‘em up nicely after!”  He drew his sword and made a few quick, smooth cuts in the air with it. “It’s a pretty thing, hey? You want to try it, laddie?”

Grey took the proffered hilt of the sword and gave it a few quick jabs. The metal felt strange in his hands, though the blade was so perfectly balanced that he barely felt the weight of it.

Tairwyn shook his head. “Nah, it’s not one of your pig-stickers. Why else do we trouble to sharpen the sides if not to use ‘em?”  He took the sword back and made a few cuts at a much slower speed. “You see? Now try that.”

Grey managed it, though with a lot less grace. He shook his head and handed it back with a rueful smile. “I think I’ll stick to what I know.”

“It never hurts to learn a new thing,” Tairwyn said, as he slid the blade back into its sheath. “Tell you what, if the wyverns don’t eat us I’ll make you a deal. You show me how to use those great bloody spears of yours, and I’ll teach you the way of the blade. Sound fair?”

“It’s a deal!” Grey said, and they shook hands on it.

The seventh day started as black as all the others, there in the deep caverns beneath the earth.  They were close enough now that they only lit one lantern, and moved slowly to avoid alerting their quarry. Grey should have been tired, he had barely slept, but the only thing he felt was anticipation. He had waited ten long years to avenge all those who had died. He gripped his spear and readied a volley of lethal air castings.

Tairwyn gave the signal, pointing up and motioning the Wind kindreds back.  The rest of the Mountain kin stood in a circle with their hands on the rock above.  Tairwyn counted out on his fingers – three…two…one…

The earth overhead groaned, twisted, and a circle of rock crashed down in their midst. The ruins of a nest were tangled in the rubble and the Mountain kin slashed down with their swords to destroy any eggs left unbroken. At the same time the Wind tribes roared up through the opening. Air castings shot out in all directions, smashing young wyverns and soft-scaled females into the walls.

The noise was deafening, shrieks of wind and wyverns melding together in an unholy chorus, punctuated by the breaking of bones and exploding rock as the Mountain kin joined the fray, hurling boulders up from below.  Grey shot upwards, drawing in air from above and sending it whirling round in a deadly cyclone, the force of it ripping more rock from the crater walls to smash into the panicked monsters.

A bellow of rage echoed out from a side cavern, and the biggest wyvern Grey had ever seen crawled out. For one moment its huge, dark eyes met his, then it lifted its head and wailed. The crater magnified the sound and it echoed out for miles…to be answered by distant shrieks.

“Oh no. That’s the queen!”  Grey spun around in the air and yelled down to Aurelius. “Father! She’s calling back the males!”

Aurelius was fighting off a pair of juveniles, whirling like a dervish to avoid their snapping jaws and the long, barbed stings in their tails. He yelled over his shoulder, “Buy us time!”

Grey knew exactly what to do.  He raced around the edge of the crater, stopping just long enough to scratch casting marks at regular intervals around the rim. He had done the same thing to seal tunnel entrances behind him, but he had never tried it on an opening this large before. There was no time to test his work, however. He could hear the enraged cries of the males getting closer.

Grey hovered in the middle of the crater, closed his eyes and summoned the Wind. The element filled his mind, flowed through him and out, touching each mark and picking up speed. The sound of it drowned out the noise of the raging battle below, and for a moment he hung suspended between heaven and earth, the crystalline sound shivering in the air around him, through him – and then he let it go.

The crater rung like a bell, and the air solidified overhead in an invisible dome.  An incredulous smile lit up Grey’s face. “I did it. I did it!”  He poured more energy into the barrier, and laughed as the male wyverns bounced off it and tumbled down the mountainside.  “Father, you were right!  The bowl of the crater works perfectly to magnify the casting!”

He could see his father yelling something back, but with the sound of the casting still ringing in his ears he couldn’t hear what he said. Grey looked up, and saw the male wyverns circling, their baleful eyes riveted on him. “Why did they stop?”

He looked back down to find his father, and saw a nightmare coming up at him instead. The queen had gotten airborne, and was heading straight for him…

—-

<- The Wanderer’s Tale, Part 3      —-|||—   The Wanderer’s Tale, Part 5

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The Wanderer’s Tale, Part 3 September 19, 2012

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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2 comments

Sorry about the delay, didn’t realize my posts weren’t auto publishing while I was on vacation. Doh!  But here it is, part 3 of Grimm’s backstory 🙂

—–

Every single member of the Wind tribes gathered in the broad, low ceilinged cavern that served as their meeting hall. Grey looked around, noticing the gaps in their ranks. There were so few of them left. All told there might be two dozen fit for the raid on the wyvern’s lairs. Maybe three, if a some of the elders insisted on joining them, and a few had.  Anger boiled up inside him for everyone they had lost, but there was nowhere for it to go. So he swallowed it back down like he always did, and let it form a cold lump in his chest.

His father stood in the center of the room, the captured egg in his hands. “They are hiding in the crater of an extinct volcano, four days flight to our north,” Aurelius said. “It is filled with nests, young just testing their wings and nesting females. The female’s scales are not so tough as the males. They act a lot like bees, with just a few queens reproducing while other drone females attend them and the eggs.  If we wipe the females out, the males will have to leave to find new mates.”

Raynard sat to one side, at the head of the remnants of Tribe Gale. He looked doubtfully at the egg. “You guess this, but do you know it? And how exactly do we get there without being torn to shreds the minute we step foot outside?”

“I’d say young Grey gave us a pretty good example today of how to deal with them,” Brennan said, and several of the hunters of Tempest clapped their hands and whistled in agreement.  Brennan clenched his fist and shook it at Raynard.  “Find your spine, man! This is our chance to take our homes back!”

“Or die trying,” Raynard said caustically. “I’ll ask again. How do we get there?”

Aurelius smiled. “Underground.”

Raynard rolled his eyes. “Oh yes, we’ll just walk through solid rock for four days – “

“-exactly.” Grey said, cutting in.  He was sick to death of the old man’s gripes. He walked down to the floor to stand with his father, his hound at his heel. “We barter with the Mountain Kindreds for a new tunnel.”

“Barter with what? Our threadbare clothes?”

Grey put a hand on Cavall’s head, and the hound thumped his tail on the ground. “My friend here is the proud father of five pups. The chief of High Peaks has admired him often, and tried to buy him from me. They could use some guards to warn them when juvenile wyverns come crawling in their caves, looking for a snack.”

Brennan whooped and pounded his spear butt into the ground. “Yes!  We pop up, wipe out their nests and take off before they ever knew what hit them!

Aurelius and Grey shared matching smiles. “We rather thought you’d like the idea,” Aurelius said.

Raynard still looked doubtful, but reluctantly agreed. “If old Tamlyn agree’s, Gale will join the raid.”

It took a week to get word to the mountain clans, but the wait paid off. The reply from Chief Tamlyn was brought by ten seasoned warriors, who he sent to go along on the raid. Grey was on lookout when they arrived, and quickly read the missive.

“Ach, I’ll do anything to rid us of those scaly bastards. And the worst part is you can’t even eat them. Give ‘em to Hel, boys! Maybe he’ll find a use for ‘em, cause for sure we can’t!

 — Tamlyn, of the Mountains.”

Grey laughed when he finished reading. “Colorful fellow, isn’t he?”

“Aye, our chief is that, amongst other things,” the leader of the warriors said, a cheerful grin lighting up his florid face. Tairwyn was the chief’s cousin, and every bit as colorful as his kin. He had drooping mustachios and spiky, brownish-red hair.  He was even broader through the shoulders than Grey, and wore his heavy metal armor as if it was light as a feather.  “So, my young friend, are ye ready to deal out some payback?”

“I’ve been ready for ten years,” Grey said, with feeling.

Tairwyn clapped him on the back hard enough to rock him on his heels. “Whoo, I like you, laddie! You’ve got some spirit in you!”

“Amongst other things,” Grey said, with a fierce grin.

Tairwyn threw back his head and roared with laughter. “Aye, we’ll get along just fine!”

Grey led them down to where the raiders were preparing for the long walk through the dark tunnels. Each had a pack with a share of the food, water, tallow candles and other small, easily carried supplies.

Aurelius greeted the Mountain kin with a broad smile and clasped forearms with him. “Tairwyn! You are most welcome!

“Couldn’t keep me away,” Tairwyn said. He looked around, and stroked his mustachios thoughtfully. “You sure these folks are up to it? No offence, but yer all looking a mite rough ‘round the edges.”

“Waiting won’t change that,” Aurelius said. “Don’t worry about us, we’ll keep up. Matter of fact, we’ll be ready to go as soon as you’ve rested a bit.”

Tairwyn let out an amused snort. “We’re ready now. Let’s go wreck some havoc, hey?”

Aurelius waved his spear in a circle over his head to get everyone’s attention, and they all settled down in quiet anticipation. “It’s time. Go silent once we reach the canyon floor. Those things can hear echoes for a long way underground.”

The way to the exit was lined with everyone who would not, or could not go. Family held their loved ones close, and those without relatives shook everyone’s hands and wished them well.  Grey’s mother was nearest to the entrance to the lower tunnels, and she reached up to brush a bit of his hair from his face.

“I wish you wouldn’t go. You’re still a boy, Aurengrey,” Merina said, her face lined with worry.

Grey gave her a hug. “I’ll be fine, mom. I’ll come back, I promise.”

Aurelius caught up to them, and gave his wife a kiss. “He’s as good a fighter as I am, dear heart. We need him. “

“I know. But I don’t have to like it.” She reluctantly stepped back, and stayed there until every last one of the raiding party had gone by. “I love you both.”

They waved, and took the lead into the dank, dripping tunnels, far from the winds that were their element.

——

<–The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 2  —|||—  The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 4 ->

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