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Wanderer & The Owlves

Chapter Two

By Isaac LawrencePublished 10 months ago 18 min read
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Chapter Two

Summoning

Call out the Mother’s brood

For the sanctuary, their militia proved

Call out the Homespun

For the sanctuary, an unwept sun

Call out the Pendragon’s guard

For the sanctuary, many centuries ward

Call out the Ring-readers

For the Sanctuary, for the Sorcerers

Call out the Sentinels of the Sea

For the sanctuary, lances flying free

Call out the Council sublime

At the sanctuary, an insisting chime.

(First verse of the ritual chant of the Choosing)

* * *

The Sanctuary stood as testament to the fortitude of the bestials that inhabited it. In the olden tongue, Owlven Home, home of the owlves, and sanctuary to all those who would escape the depredations of men.

It had stood for eons on this natural outcrop of Land’s End, protected and hidden from men. No-one had approached it for generations except the occasional sorcerer, those chosen to carry fragments of magickal discipline given to them by the owlves.

It had grown from when it was home only to the owlves, to one of the strongest sanctuaries left in this disordered world.

Wendall gazed up at an opaque, shimmering sky, at the magical barrier of Owlven Home which allowed in the life-giving rays of the resplendent sun but kept out those who couldn’t attune to it. It was a marvellous work of magick that fed off the ley line power that surged through this area of the world.

Wendall was a young owlve, who was a terror to his parents, always questioning about the human menace, the human way, and other things besides.

He wanted to be a member of Mothers’ Brood.

Mother’s brood was a select group of Owlves who could travel outside the barrier to recruit sorcerers for information. Mothers Brood was an ancient organisation that dated to the origin of times, to the great mother owl.

Great mother owl had given birth to the first of their race. They and the Giant Owls that patrolled the forest canopy at night.

Many an Owlve, would be woken by the flap of an Owl’s wings at night, or the death of one of the large weasels that hid in the town of owlven home as an owl took it.

Wendall moved his sinewy form amidst the gnarled trees, practising his wood lore and his adept skills. He hunted a large stag. On padded leather feet, he crouched, crawled and cantered through his woodland home, silent as the softest whisper.

A noise distracted him, and he glanced with his almond eyes at a bird’s nest with chittering young. He had thin, athletic legs, arms with long fingers, with bulbous spongy tissue at the joints. In this, he was a typical owlve.

He dropped to his knees on the branch and scanned the forest floor.

Wendall had been on this hunt for hours; every fibre of his body cried out to him for an end to it. This was a part of the training too: to resist fatigue when it tried to claim you, for that is when the greatest mistakes might happen. He brushed back a stray link of his auburn hair and paused. Good; Undetected.

The best way to approach the stag was to pursue it through the trees, which would give him an aerial vantage point and allow swift feet to find purchase on some overlying branch for a deft shot. He scaled the massive oak, touching the wooden pillar with years of experience.

As a matter of habit, he readjusted his brace of throwing spears, arranged on his back and manoeuvred his long knife in the tan belt he wore.

He wheeled onto a massive branch of Ash, overlooking the scene where the stag seemed to graze peacefully. Something shot out from inside the tree–one of the large bats that nested in this region of Owlven Home. His cover was blown; the stag was escaping. Wendall had to act fast. He ran along the large branches, leaping and gliding, issuing owlven hoots as he did, and receiving faint replies from other hunters his owlven ears could pinpoint at some distance that. This hunt’s end would be up to him.

He launched himself at the stag, missing its rump with outstretched fingers, and smacked hard onto the ground, laying stunned and issuing sharp breaths into the dust. Wendall stood and looked at the stag, which had turned to look at him with some amusement in its face. ‘I almost had you that time, Archen,’ Wendall blurted.

Still dazed, it was several minutes before Wendall recovered enough to hear the stag’s answer.

‘Playing one of my dumb cousins isn’t always fun but hearing that panting in the dust I must admit tickled me no end,’ Archen nuzzled Wendall for a moment with his soft nose before continuing ‘However, I can admit, you took me by surprise there, young Wendall.’

As he said this, a pack of even younger owlves burst through the undergrowth, attempting to get to the ancient stag. A hot-headed snapper called Farfre, an impetuous, fiery monster of a child, led them.

‘I caught him,’ said Farfre. ‘he’s mine, and I am the winner!’

Farfre was about a year younger than Wendall. He had quite ruddy skin and tousled blond hair that was often possessed of broken twigs or leaves intertwined with its fronds. Farfre preferred rough housing with his friends to hunting.

Wendall investigated Farfre’s intense green eyes and saw the youngster’s passionate nature. ‘The game was well over,’ said Wendall. ‘I failed, and Archen could have butted me before I knew. That means the game’s over, Farfre, we lost again.’

Farfre stood before Archen resolute. ‘I’m not having that!’ the others echoed Farfre’s, who often cow towed to Farfre’s tempestuous demeanour. ‘I’m going to tell that I caught the stag, but he lied and said he wasn’t. Everyone knows he’s do’s it before’ “

Laughing together, Archen and Wendall rolled in the dirt at the youngster’s south-western accent. Farfre often assumed the dialect of his mother’s brood parent, who’d had regular contact with sorcerers.

‘You go dos that then, said Wendall.’

Farfre whirled and bolted away.

Righting themselves and kicking off the dust, Archen stated to Wendall, ‘it is time for you to end these childish games and join your designation. You are one of the finest hunters in these lands. You would have had me if it wasn’t for that bat, and they have only caught me. What, once?’

‘Yes, by Tiberion, weren’t you? I’m sure others have caught you, though you never mention those times, you filthy rascal. Let’s get back to town. Come on.’

They sauntered back into the oak woodland home of the owlvish capital. The place was bustling in the early evening with the hawking of food and man-made wares. The council saw everyone got their needs in this place, but everyone liked sweet titbits from the stalls for something small bartered with an open heart.

Archen was one of the foremost stag hearts, an ancient race stranded here many centuries ago by the encroachment of greedy men. Talking of greedy men strolling along the street came the last scion of Pendragon.

A middle-aged man turning to fat, who cut a laughable figure around the town with his outrageous stories about his family and their past. However glorious that time may have been, or most likely was not, it didn’t reflect in this man.

Still, he was affectionate with the younglings, and popular because of this, despite the tedious stories.

The council gathered today to announce new appointments of young Owlves as they took their stations to serve the Owlven sanctuary. They always did it this way. Each Owlve would come into young adulthood with a promotion to their different ranks.

These ranks, Mothers brood, Home-spun, Council Sublime, Ring-reader, Pendragons guard, Sentinels, and Fair-folk.

Anticipation loomed for Wendall; along with a few others, he was to be chosen for his station in life. He longed to be of Mothers Brood. His heart raced. The fair grew to a standstill as the council assumed the dais reflecting Wendall’s’ own anticipation.

A low table chiselled from old fallen oaks, and erected into the town’s primary stage, behind which the council members sat was the centre of attention.

The council sublime’s leader, an elderly owlven woman, stepped forward and announced, “I have something to share,” her voice booming to every corner of the large fair.

‘First, we call Dendra fair fold, home-spun agent.’

A young, slight owlve of delicate nature receiving a light blue sash marking her now as one of the civil litigators and social organisers. Her face beamed.

‘Wendall Redden, Pendragon Guard.,’ boomed the ancient owlve.

Wendall’s face drooped. They had placed him in an esteemed position, but not one he wanted, and one which had lost most of its meaning. A diplomatic and military position in ages past, it was a position of much honour and little action. He stepped forward and accepted a sash of whirling red fire.

The ritual continued. Wendall returned to the awaiting community, receiving slaps and intoned hoots as he passed. But they were congratulations he didn’t much feel like receiving.

‘Glavus Leafing...’

The day passed in a haze of pleasantries, with the council not saying much. Wendall wondered why the choice for him to be a Pendragon Guard.?

Everyone knew the position he craved, and they well regarded his hunting skills. He got together with the council tomorrow with his new matron, Alisendra (mother to Dendra), who oversaw the upkeep of the Pendragon landed tenure, a small farm on the outskirts of Owlven Home.

* * *

The Old sot stumbled along the sea-ward lane, a small lane descending off the castle road. He had spent many hours drowning his ambivalence in metal tankards full of ale.

Ale with its sweet amber softness.

The town was not as it once was; he remembered many years ago; it had been an isolated tourist location. Around it, the land was surrounded by farms and fishermen’s cottages dotted the craggy cliff sides.

It was his twenties he remembered most fondly. He had been a barman with delusions of being an actor in one of the sea-side theatres. What had it been? Yes, the Tempest.

The Tempest was what it was, his golden blonde hair which had now turned to grey, his haughty highborn temperament for the part of Prospero.

A temperament unlike his own, he was a down-to-earth sort inherited from the local populace who were the type who were just content to drink ale and sit in an inn at the end of a long day of fishing or farming. Rough laughter and even rougher jokes.

He had perhaps become one of them now. But then he had wanted more.

Yes, the Tempest, his big flouncy robes of purple and red, a staff made of wood. Polished for theatrical purposes. The same staff that he now used to prop up his wobbly leg. He tapped the staff on his right leg, getting a strangely satisfying plasticated sound.

The satisfaction passed as he looked again at his faded staff.

He passed by the abandoned sea-side theatre, carved from the ancient bedrock of this land. The stone that had been the site of keen-eyed watchers as the actors plied their trade. An empty looking grey. Like his clothes, a slate grey fedora, long trousers frayed in parts at the end and a plain light green shirt with tarnished metallic buttons.

Where had his thoughts just been?

Yes, the Tempest. It was then, in his twenties; he had seen the bird. The Owl, large and looming over his performance as he waxed and waned like the waves in his performance. It had remained unseen except by him.

The Old sot continued past the scene of happy memories and continued until he was in sight of the headland. The lighthouse where he lived. So much for dreams! He chuckled to himself, the edge of a smile on his withered face. His weathered face.

He rustled his beard, with contained now only edges of the blonde it had been originally, whilst looking at a large rock. Here the bird had landed, its screeching hoot sounding across the cliff-side. A slight sylph like creature had joined it.

An Owlve. A ring-reader.

It had said in a high-toned whistly voice ‘Brendan, descendant of Bedvedere. It is time to claim your destiny at our side. Do you wish to be a sorcerer?’

He had always thought his family was a bunch of old kooks, and in fact they were. They were not Sorcerors like him, still the Owlve had told him, they had selected him amongst that bloodline.

This was a greater dream to be a sorcerer, and to guide them into... into... he couldn’t bear to think of it.

So many years he had, so many mistakes.

He took out his hip flask and slugged the booze down his throat. Looking out to the sea.

* * *

I ambled over the moor at a ponderous pace. The moor pony tripped over almost every rock with the extra weight I burdened it with. Moonlight struck the exposed land, casting up reflections of grass and animals against the luminescent sky.

The ground grew rockier and the fresh smell of sea air loomed as I coaxed the donkey along towards the flowing breeze. My eyes were wide at the emerging landscape dappled by the moon and the distant streaks of light that formed slight threads. It looked like I could reach out and touch the tableau that emitted those lights.

Ahead lay dips that dropped into lakes of shadow and exposed hills that soaked up the lights. One pool and some threads of light to my left took more shape, and it became apparent what my location was: a small town dominated by an aging precipice. Tintagel.

I removed the black cloak and balled it up, then drifted into this sleepy town. A few hours remained before I could lie down to rest and then the journey would continue.

Taking my time, I found a farm that looked cared for. I led the donkey to an enclosure with a lonely-looking horse within it and left it with a sense of gratitude for carrying me.

As I walked, I investigated sources of rock for the abundant tin.

A mystery unveiled: I found a large boulder containing traces of tin. A large claw scar had been rent into its surface by some creature, along with large rends in the tin deposit. I wondered what it meant.

I perused it for several minutes, running my fingers along the claw marks, an enormous creature the size approximately of a lion unless I missed my guess. It would have been interesting to study, but I had to move on, for dawn was fast approaching.

My quest called me onward, and I continued my isolated trudging towards Tintagel, I had plenty of time to think about the dead warrior laid on the cold marble and remembered how important Tintagel had been to him and how he had battled to defend his ancient kingdom. That battle would have been fought in these environs, in the cold desolation of a lonely moor.

Before me lay dense patches of gorse, thick and choking off other plant life. It was there I saw them, shades. Standing shadows. I focussed my ephemeric vision on them, seeing into the spirit world you might say.

In the densest patches of gorse, the shades wore armour, visored helms and occasionally the stirrup of a spectral horse with broken barding. These shades, some of them, were... hollow. Hollower than you would expect of a typical ghost. There was no purpose to them, no task left unfinished.

Hollow.

A vacuum that couldn’t be filled unable to move from this place, by the harnessing of magick centuries previously.

I knew then that these were Moor dread, and shuddered. They were not a threat without an abundance of magick in the world. Still I circumvented the gorse carefully.

As I walked, I investigated sources of rock for the abundant tin.

A mystery unveiled: I found a large boulder containing traces of tin. A large claw scar had been rent into its surface by some creature, along with large rends in the tin deposit. I wondered what it meant.

Moving into the town proper, feet weary and leaden, I stopped by a reclusive B&B marked by white porticoes, and shining bay windows. Arthurian memorabilia fluttered in the sea breeze, against the multi-coloured houses and streets.

* * *

Deep beneath the earth, and far below the open sea.

Thousands of miles from the Wanderer and Tintagel.

Hidden from the world as much as Owlven home.

A small daemon was to be cast into a new world. Right now it approached its prey amidst burning flames and smouldering black rock.

The Abyss, its home a catalyst for the strong and aware, destruction for the weak or unaware.

An unaware creature about to be consumed. The small daemon pounced on the larger daemon, sleeping amidst the rocks. Veins ripped open the flesh of his skin, causing his anger to bubble to the surface and increase the hold he had on his mewling meal. The creature’s blood flowed down his throat and into his skin, the warm energy feeling delightful to him.

The daemon was small, yet small tusks formed from the feeding, and the delicious liqueur of the victims’ blood slipped from his mouth to stain fatty maroon lips.

As he drained his victim, he realised that this was also the future of him and all other daemon kind. It was the way. It had been a good feed. A stronger, more powerful daemon that had been sleeping in an unsecured pulsating blood building.

The young daemon felt the energy changing his form. He looked inside and directed the part that he had received into his body, and the parts which he could not digest, he funnelled into an expanding sack. It would release this in the spawning pools.

He would have to do that before the Blood prince summoned him, a powerful Blood daemon. Trying his hardest to muster up enough energy for an impossible task, but he had to give it his all.

Escaping the dwelling to find other prey, if he were to stand a chance of surviving his meeting with the Blood prince.

A young daemon summoned into their presence would often result in the prince well fed and content. Princes didn’t need to hunt, fed hundreds of younger daemons to them daily.

Everything returned to the great current of blood that fuelled the daemon world. That same prince might die mewling the very next minute, consumed by a more powerful daemon. That was the way of daemonic life.

Fissures of melting blood erupted through his skin, stimulated by his survival instincts, as he slunk stealthily through the night. Similar hunter’s eyes to his own watched him go by; his world full of hidden threat. Suddenly the daemon felt strange, electricity passing through him, the world turning.

His vision replacing the world of the Abyss with a closed cave full of stagnant water and dead fish. Ahead of him stood a cowled figure. This mysterious figure lifted its head to reveal pinkish flesh and bright blue eyes. Curls of black hair slipped down over female eyes, and absent-mindedly, she flicked them back. A tattoo of tears was on her face in a virtual waterfall.

The Daemon then noticed the other shifting figures, many like the pinkish being and some who looked more familiar.

A loud voice pitched in a deep baritone, ‘Welcome Bel–Asus.’.

The voice cut off in mid-sentence, surprised, apparently, by the sudden appearance of this young daemon, who seemed to struggle with his last meal. Vomit dribbled from his chin as he unleashed hot burning squirming daemon larvae on the cave floor.

His fellow daemons stepped forward into the scant cave light.

A tear daemon was the leading figure.

It had sunken eyes riven by chasms flowing downwards like stalactites and ending with putrid flaps of bluish-green skin.

It spoke with an undulating hesitance ‘Welcome, welcome, brother blood’, its putrid mouth flaps ending its words with a wet sound.

Behind him, a massive bulk moved, possessed of muscles that twisted and snaked throughout its form; he knew what this was: a toil daemon. They were almost universally slaves to more powerful daemons and used as the workforce of the Abyss. Its body seemed to expel tormented, exhausted moans as it moved. Its facial features all had pulsating musculature wrapped round it, seeming to command those features. When it blinked, those muscles rippled.

‘We have work for you, brother blood,’ the tear daemon said in a wet and disappointed manner.

* * *

I awoke in a soft bed, its enticing comfort forcing me to reconsider rising to greet the shining new day body, protesting as I rolled out of bed.

Consumption of breakfast was quick as I overlooked a leaflet strewn street. An Arthurian regatta was happening here in the evening, bustling into town, eager to reach my destination.

The hour was still early as I headed down the main street. There was something wrong. I sensed it.

A gang of youths dressed in purplish black with a gothic look complete with black hair, almost a uniform assembled outside a public house called The Raven. They looked at me as I approached. An intense malevolent look on their features.

Their faces marked with tears, each a different colour. They approached me, fanning out as they did so. It exposed the hostility on their faces.

Humming the magic to myself, sensing its electro-magnetic rush pound through my body. It was then I sensed more behind, approaching at a pace. If I turned to look, there would be an immediate attack.

‘What are you looking at?’. A classic confrontational phase issued by would-be thugs the world over.

I attempted a distraction technique, pointing at the Raven pub behind them. ‘I was just admiring the mouldings on that public house over there.’

This, however, had no effect on these reprehensible and, from what my psychic senses could gather, tortured youths. The attack came from behind. I whirled, deflecting the punch, and issued a sharp jab to the exposed chin of one heavy-set teenager, drawing a dapple of red tears and a grunt of pain. I continued to whirl. Lifting my left leg and pivoting, I sent another of these attackers sprawling.

However, these were no ordinary youths. One seemed to gather his strength. They stood just beyond the range of my attacks, circling me. I felt a tear greet my cheek. Why was I crying?

A burning tear. Humiliation.

Images came unbidden to me: an image of Fran’s broken body; of a beggar man with outstretched plaintive urging; and Chris’s ailing breaths, the images surged with an intensity that forced me to my knees. The physical attacks came swift and brutal, kicks and punches with hard elbows and knees, slammed me to the floor. Taunts and jeers paraded through my life to join with the bruising attack.

The force of the Tempestus building. Whirling inside.

As pain ripped through me, I thought of a long-lost time–nostalgia; this was the greater attack, a magical one. I created a barrier to their magic, analysing it and forcing it back. I would not give them the energy they needed. A laugh cleared my throat, as my wounded body gave off a euphoria to counter the magic. Confused looks from my assailants, but they did not stop.

I curled into a ball and covered my face. The ephemeral energy coalesced into a ball. Kick after punch after vicious elbow flashed against the bright blue sky, bruises welting on me. It was too much to contain; the energy exploded out of me, tearing into the youngsters with a roaring force. I threw them from me, sprawled out on the street. One wavered on his knees for a moment until he succumbs collapsing. I rose, feeling the pressure of a dozen bludgeoning wounds, a prodigious aching as I teetered on the verge of consciousness.

Placing a mystical block on the gripping pain, I rushed to the local train station. The sulphurous scent haunting me, the twisted look in the eyes of my attacker.

What had just occurred? How could they have come close to beating me?

The scent. The scent was the key. Sulphur. Could it be? Were they daemons? It seemed unlikely. Cultists then? I snuck on to a train heading along the coast and into the further reaches of Cornwall, away from the damned place. Memories of Tintagel wrestled in my mind. The dead warrior’s noble vision and the cultist’s antipathy warred together as I buried my head in my arms and channelled my powers into healing.

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