Winter’s Edge: 7/23/14

Little did we know the connection between our worlds was to become the battle ground. For years, centuries it had been a no man’s land, a place of guarded silence and passage. Over time it was less guarded to the point of being simply a necessary evil. That path, littered with broken cobblestones, leading through the twisted forest on the far side, was the only passage over the ravine. No one wanted to destroy it. More just wanted to escape over and through it as fast as they possibly could before nightfall caught them unawares on the other side. No one knew for certain what lived in that dark woods, but all who journeyed through it would attest to the constancy of nerves prickling hard up and the feeling of eyes persistently following their every movement until they were through it.

So, people would travel to our side, immigrating to that of the light to settle our lands, toil our fields. Serenity and her family always welcomed newcomers providing they came openly. Our people took in these people, gave them work, a place to live, and food to eat until they were integrated into our small community. It was the way of House Solserenay and had been ever since this edge of the world was settled by them. As a result no one ever suspected that treachery would come to our very backyard. After all who would harm the one who was openly giving what was needed?

At first it was only small forays into our forests as if they were gathering supplies, berries, nuts, that sort of thing for some sort of journey. Truthfully, it went unnoticed by most of us. Who would think twice about someone stealing what the forest was providing? The forest was filled with fruit bearing trees and bushes of all kinds from all over our world. Nobles and travelers knew to bring back small plants for the cooks, herbalists, and doctors of our people. There were a few areas that were off limits due to the poisonous qualities found within but everyone knew where they were and avoided them. Those were not the fruits or flowers that were collected, though. No, the berries, flowers, nuts, and herbs gathered had buried magical properties lost, nearly forgotten over time.

Like I said, the House treated the harvesting as someone just getting ready to go somewhere. Slowly, specific trees and bushes grew bare. It took our herbalist weeks before he understood the extent of their foraging and what it meant. While the overt individual properties of each was known, their ancient properties was long forgotten. Our herbalist, however, had been trained far away in the capital. Something sparked his memories from his studies long ago. Birds were sent out, spell bound messengers followed as replies began zipping back. Pieces of ancient recipes were sent. People, high ranking wizards and herbalists, began to pour into our domain. The implications were uncertain, but the ingredients and their potential were clear. To our detriment, we had not considered what these fruits could do when magically combined. By the time our herbalists and wizards figured it out, they were too late. Even then, the full extent of the damage or what was to come was not divined.

Slowly the forests surrounding Winter’s Edge began to die. It was not noticeable at first. They attacked in the winter, while the earth slept keeping its roots peacefully underground. The magical poisons slowly seeped down deep into the earth corroding the tender shoots, corrupting their rejuvenation into wretched torment. As Spring came, loosening the icy grip of cruel Winter, the earth screamed.

A long dark winter had encased everyone in its spiny arms for far longer than ere before driving crazed delusions of Spring upon all. Having so many extra mouths to feed and bodies to find beds for, Serenity was constantly on edge, striving to ration the supplies out until Spring would release Winter’s deadly arms. Nobles and serfs alike were craving escape from their imposed confinement. With dreams of warmth and bounteous color, everyone awaited the earth’s rebirth. With cheer starved eyes people searched for the first buds only to be greeted by hideous fingers of black that stretched twined, pulled, and seared their way through the frozen ground in their deadly imitation of Spring’s tender shoots. .

Toiling their way to the surface, the twisted entlets rose. Sprays of earth darkened, held in Greed’s wide palm, kissed by Sorrow’s delight, tempted by Treachery with his inky solicitation. The triplets had ne’er wandered to Winter’s Edge ‘til then. Serenity had held fast, her sons strengthening her resolve. Peace reigned but that morning, the shattering began. Sundered from its roots, from its home the purity of our earth was stolen and enraged, innocent, no longer. Screaming, raging, falling to the ground, keening our pain, poisons of the earth pooled inside us, awakened as we shared the earth’s agony.

Where once the joyous sounds of birds and frogs enjoined in Spring were now to be found the creaks of vines in the banshee wind. Flowers changed before our eyes into grotesque caricatures. The mutation complete, the plants uprooted. Their anger overwhelming us as over the space of one season, The House of Chaos had created its army.

With misshapen fingers the entlets sprouted from the mildewing earth pulling themselves to their rooted feet before launching forth. They were miniature figures of manlike trees barely coming to the calves of men with fury filled faces. Hair in shades of putridity hung lank, wrapped in fungus shrouded vines. Tunics made of decayed foliage draped their emaciated bodies. Shoes cast from shards of minerals long lost were strapped across the tops of their rooted feet while long claw-like toes stretched through holes clenching clots of poisoned earth and tossing balls of blackened imp fire from their fingers at any who came.

Images of childhood terrors and midnight frights cascaded before us ransacking the huts nearest the forest, awakening frightened discord among the children and maddening the pastured sheep to frenzy. Ripping fence posts from the field and shredding the wooden rails, entlets danced eerily past the boundaries of Winter’s Edge. They created lances, javelins, and cabers from the remnants of the fences they had destroyed. Minuscule weapons they might seem, when held by those horrific creatures they were deadly accurate in their tiny hands.

We lay writhing upon the ground in horror, our insides raging in pain as the entlets rained our ranks with spears and javelins created from our own fences. Clubbing those closest to them our men struggled to their knees, propped themselves upon their swords and attempted to prepare for battle, knowing that all could be lost before the battle had even begun. Still we couldn’t stand.

Leaning on the gate of keep, clutching her stomach as it churned, Serenity directed the men as the women and children behind her fell to the ground in agony. Tears pouring down her face as she witnessed the fall of her home, her domain, she screamed to the heavens for vengeance, for solace, for help. And still she watched on unable to turn her gaze from the massacre before her as nobles, wizards, soldiers, and guards all writhed in agony while the entlets buried each one beneath their hordes.

The strongest among us crouched swinging at those creatures shorter than his knees, stomachs heaving and cramping with each motion. Some just sat there and let the entlets come to them piling up bodies around them while their swords sang out bitterly. Desperation evident in every move, everyone struggled on not knowing from whence help would come or if it would even hear their cries.

Just as the last of us were faltering, falling to the ground, she arrived. Somehow she knew and came to us, the one who had been cast away so long ago. What brought her, we never knew but Quietude brought forth the solution. Dipping the corner of her cloak in the purest of Spring’s freshly melted snow she came to us. She brought fresh water from far away with her, a fount that never seemed to end as she bade us drink. Brought from her hermit’s rest, she washed our brows soothing the quakes with soft spells taught to her by Serenity long ago yet altered and magnified. Using motions older than the eldest of us could remember, she built a Sanctuary, encircling our keep, pushing out the entlets with her will alone.

While no beauty by any means, Quietude was fierce, courageous, and intrepid that day. Moving in ways with knowledge beyond belief Quietude led, directed our retreat to the keep, planned our rejoinder, and defied the battle to cast our rebuilding. Her knowledge of things arcane exploded through the entlets throwing them in shredded, scattered pieces far from the keep. Their imp fire and rooted chaos was disrupted for a time, but it was not enough. As Chaos’ army regrouped, the entlets grew.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

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    Jan 03, 2015 @ 06:00:48

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