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Sundered: Shadow of the Mountain

by NT Fjord about a month ago in Fantasy
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"...he remembered those first, horrifying days, when the life he once knew was burned away by the inferno of a wicked maw."

Illustration by Ankou Schnee

“There weren’t always dragons in the Valley,” Rexus began, slowly drawing an oilcloth along the blade of his shining, steel greatsword. “White River Run used to be one of the most well-worn trading routes back in its day, before the monsters came down from their mountain homes and started making off with the wagons, their oxen, and torching the inns and houses to the stones.”

His eyes grew misty, staring intensely as if looking at something far in the distance; his hand running across the blade in what could only be a cross between a reverie of times long past, and a self-reassuring manner. He had always done that, when he remembered those first, horrifying days, when the life he once knew was burned away by the inferno of a wicked maw; that wicked maw now stood at over the doorway to the Nightgate Inn, mounted, a reminder of just how much both he and the world had changed in just a few short decades. He looked up at the thing absently, taking in the view of razor-sharp teeth, each as long as a dagger, mounted in a jaw of glistening white bone. He could still feel the flames that poured out of that jaw, and still hear the sound that came from it as its owner died.

“What brought them down, Master Rexus?” a straw-haired youth of sixteen asked, his eyes burning curiously, with an oilcloth in his own hand polishing a steel breastplate.

Rexus’ eyes focused as he looked over at the lad, Martin, his squire, and shook his head, sighing, as if he were sad to be torn away from his memories.

“No one knows,” he said as he turned the blade over in the orange light, examining the edge. “Hunger? Spite? The Gods? Maybe there’s something even bigger in those damn mountains that drove them down.”

That statement was met with a few grumbles of concern by the patrons at the Nightgate – the idea of something bigger than the Blackscale Dragons, or even the idea of something fierce enough to drive them out, was something no one wanted to think about. Martin himself shivered at the thought, shaking his head, as if to force the idea out of his mind. As the two went back to polishing in relative silence, a large, mustached man with arms thick enough to make a bear turn green with envy walked over to the pair with two heavy pewter tankards in hand, and set them down on the table between them.

“On the house, Master Slayer”, he said in his deep, rumbling voice, “for to hope that ye’ll keep the Run safe as ye can, and the Nightgate too, maybe stay awhile.” There was a sense of uneasiness in the innkeeper’s eyes: a searching look, hunting hope.

“Thank you, Roddick, but you know I can’t stay here forever,” Rexus said as he sheathed his greatsword in its intricate leather scabbard. He then reached for one of the tankards and said, “much as I’d like to drink your cellar dry for free, there’s been talk of one of the Blackscales over in Mordren Ferry, stalking about in the night. It wouldn’t do to lose the only crossing for twenty miles.”

“No, it wouldn’t,” Roddick said, sighing, and blowing into his thick mustache, “but it wouldn’t do to lose what’s left of yer home, neither, Verun.” he met the Slayer’s gaze, his own becoming hard as he said the name, “that is, if ye even consider the Run yer home after being so long away at Vel Daran.”

Vel Daran: “The Keep”, “Slayer’s Sanctuary”, or to the more superstitious, "Vel Vordan" – "The Night’s Home". The Keep was where all Slayers went to train, and it served as an academy of sorts, where men, and even a few women, became weapons of war. Built after the Sundering of The Veil two thousand years ago to train those who would stand against what came from beyond, what threatened humanity even today, that black fortress still stood in the Daggerback Mountains, respected by many, feared by most, and, by some hated.

Rexus spent a decade there, sacrificed his name there, and sacrificed who he once was as all Slayers did; that was the price of becoming a Slayer: one’s life, first in ceremony and then eventually in the field. “No Slayer dies in his bed,” Master Rodain, one of the instructors of Vel Daran, had always said, and more often than not that was the truth of it.

Rexus made his oaths there, his sacrifices there, and one day Martin would too. He looked at the boy, who looked at him, mouth working the name ‘Verun’ silently, and then up at the innkeeper, his hazel eyes flickering golden in the firelight. Rexus then spoke:

“Verun died in the Flame of Service, Roddick, and any home he had was forgotten then and there. I can’t treat White River Run as more important than anywhere else because of a dead man’s memories, and I can’t ignore the Call, even if I wanted to, and I’ve been Called to Mordren Ferry. Martin and I leave at dawn.”

“Very well, lad…but before ye go, there’s someone here who would like to see ye.” Roddick said, grinding his molars anxiously.

A woman in a pale red cloak stood up and stepped out from one of the deep shadows by the inn’s walls, where Rexus hadn’t noticed she’d been sitting, and made her way to the three men. A hood covered her face, and she slowly pulled it back, revealing long, red curls with streaks of gray, and two gleaming emerald eyes, as well as a cold, mirthless smile. Rexus’s mouth tightened as his hand gripped the hilt of his sword, his knuckles bone-white. The chatter in the inn’s common room was silenced immediately as Rexus spoke her name aloud, more than one horrified gasp replacing the pleasant tones of the now-dead conversation.

“Alaina...”

The woman’s emerald eyes turned a pale, ice-blue with the energy of a Cast as her frigid smile widened, her lips pulling back in a semi-snarl as she spoke: “Welcome home, son...”

Fantasy

About the author

NT Fjord

Just a person on the internet interested in writing.

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