Shadows of Spirits

Shadows of Spirits

Status: In Progress

Genre: Fantasy

Details

Status: In Progress

Genre: Fantasy

Summary

When free-spirited Arjenis leaves her peaceful grassland clan to explore the vast lands, she gets caught up in the violent mysticism of the forest clans. When she meets an ambitious young leader of a forest clan, her fate turns dark.

Summary

When free-spirited Arjenis leaves her peaceful grassland clan to explore the vast lands, she gets caught up in the violent mysticism of the forest clans. When she meets an ambitious young leader of a forest clan, her fate turns dark.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Prologue

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: July 17, 2016

Reads: 1253

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: July 17, 2016

A A A

A A A

 

Gentle green light filtered through the screen of emerald leaves, casting dappled shadows on the soft crab grass. Distantly, the muted chirps of birds sounded, muffled by the screen of brush and dense, towering dark trees. They stood tall and massive, gnarled black trunks and crooked branches that tangled into each other. Hills sloped the ancient forest, steep and rolling, covered in smooth, undisturbed grass.

Sharp, glittering eyes. A snake wove its way through the soft grass, long black tongue darting out to test the air. It could sense something. Something large hefting its way through the forest, the vibrations heavy and crashing. And beside it, something smaller and lighter. The snake stilled as the vibrations heightened, the two animals coming closer.

A slender leg dipped down to test the ground. Bare toes sank into the soft grass. Upon finding it satisfactory, the creature moved onward, oblivious to the green snake lying motionless in the grass.

It passed quietly with soft footfalls. Behind it, a massive beast moved to follow, its bulk enormous enough to blot out the sun. A huge hoof thudded inches away from the snake’s head.

With a heavy shifting of air, it passed on, following the slender-footed human. As the footfalls of the beasts grew fainter, the snake stayed where it was, eyes black and unblinking. When it was quite sure the two creatures had gone for good, it slithered on.

***

Warm sunlight shone off light brown hair. A slender hand reached up to comb it back, away from her face. Dark eyes blinked, set over a small nose and a tan face covered with blotchy freckles. The girl’s eyes were wide and bright as diamonds as she observed her surroundings. “Look,” she said in a hushed voice. “See how big the trees are, Tannu?”

Behind her, a massive bull stood, muscles rippling across its tan hide. Huge, solid white horns grew from its brow. Every step it took, its heavy hoof sank into the soft grass, leaving an imprint in the ground. In opposition, the girl stepped gently, as she had at home, careful not to leave a mark on the ground. When she lifted her foot, the grass sprang back into formation. The bull huffed, a deep, rumbling sound, and lowered its massive head to nose at the grass.

The girl stood still, observing the enormous grove of black trees in front of her. Their trunks were huge and so thick she doubted she would be able to fully wrap her arms around them. They were so unlike the trees back in her homeland, which were springy things with supple trunks and whippy branches. These branches stretched into the sky, rough and piercing and solid.

A sudden flutter and twittering made a commotion on the other side of the glade. A grouse stalked out from a bush, feathers fluffed. 

The girl’s short cowhide dress crinkled as she put a foot on one of the low-hanging branches and hoisted herself up. Unused to climbing anything, she wobbled until she grabbed the trunk with one hand. The other went to the belt cinched around her waist. Threaded through it was a leather sling and bag of stones.

The grouse warbled, threatening its rival still hiding in the bush.

The girl swung the swing above her head, eyes fixed on her prey. A swift whirring motion, faster and faster.

The bird straightened, detecting a barely noticeable noise, like the fluttering of wings.

It was too late before it thought to run. The girl jumped off the branch and walked toward the limp body before picking it up and tucking it under her arm. “Looks like I’m actually eating meat tonight,” she commented, a relieved smile breaking over her face. “Thank god. I was getting so sick of eating watercress every night…Come on, Tannu. We can cover a few more miles today, I bet. I heard there’s a village a ways away.”

The bull continued its grazing, ignoring her. She gripped its leather harness, a thin thing wound around its muzzle and shoulders, and gave it a tug. “Come on, lazy. You can graze all you want when we reach shelter.”

With that, the bull finally allowed itself to be pulled along, abandoning its grass to plod sullenly behind its master. They moved through the forest, leaving only a few scattered feathers behind.

***

At night, the fire burned low, illuminating the glistening eyes of the bull. The cow was lying down on its side, huge head resting on the soft ground. It ears twitched as the girl leaned against its side, tucking her legs under her. The glowing embers cast the girl’s face into sharp relief as she looked up at the sky. The slivers of stars shone through the dense branches, like little drops of crystal water. It was so different from her home, in the wide grasslands. Here she was cocooned in a nest of trees and hills, like being nestled in the arms of her mother.

She rested her head on the bull’s gently breathing side, her dark eyes blinking closed. She pulled her embroidered mantle closer around her. “I’m so glad I’m here….” She whispered. “Right here, in such a new and beautiful place. I’m so happy I decided to leave...”

She would eventually come to regret those words, but in that moment, it was just her and Tannu, and the comforting embrace of the forest, and the promise of a new exciting adventure.

***

The room was dark. Only a flickering torch was mounted on the wall, the bright flames seeming to shy away from the darkness. On the floor, a dim figure was lying on a mat, covered with blankets. Only the minute shifting of the blankets over his chest betrayed his breathing. His face was pale and old, with a scar cutting across the bridge of his nose.

The door creaked open. The old man started, his breathing shorting. He opened his rheumy eyes to see a man close the door and come over to kneel beside him on the mat.

“You wanted to see me, Father?”

The man was pale, the torchlight giving him an almost ghostly pallor. It contrasted with his hair, which was pitch-black as ochre, braided neatly into a plait down his back.

His face was sharply handsome, approaching beautiful. His nose was long and straight, his skin smooth and free of imperfections. His eyelashes were long enough to be a girl’s, framing pale blue eyes that were so light they nearly gray. They were beautiful as a cold day’s dawn, but strangely cold, like the eyes of a dead man.

He wore brown canvas pants and a knee-length blue tunic, which was embroidered with intricate green and red designs around the hem and cuffs of the sleeves. On his left hand he had an elbow-length glove that stopped just below the wrist, fastened to his middle finger with a metal ring to make it easier to grip a bowstring.

He had the physique of an archer, wiry and lean, biceps muscled from years of threading arrows.

The man drew in a gasping breath. “Daamya, my son, I fear I have not long for this world—“ he erupted in a fit of coughing.

“Father, don’t strain yourself. You are weak.” Daamya’s voice was concerned, although his eyes were fixed dispassionately on his dying father. Ever since he was a child, the old man mused, he had always had those dead eyes. Cold, passionless. Like shards of ice.

“Daamya. You are my eldest son. I have something of utmost importance I must tell you.”

Daamya nodded slowly, eyes lowering obediently.

“As I have grown older, I have…been thinking. About us and the Sei Siari.”

At the mention of his ancestral clan’s mortal enemies, Daamya lifted his gaze again, and deep in those pale depths, the old man saw a distant spark of anger. The old man struggled up, putting a hand on his son’s arm. “No, Daamya. Listen to me. What have our feuding with the Sei Siari brought us? The deaths of too many of our people. Your mother, for one.”

“What do you mean to tell me, Father?” said Daamya, his voice level.

“I mean to say, I wish for us to pursue a peace with the Sei Siari. That is why, after I die, I wish for your brother Younan to be the next clan head. He will be willing to negotiate and put down our grudge in search for peace. “

The younger man said nothing.

“Daamya… I am sorry. As my eldest son, were always supposed to be the next village head. But I have lived too long, seen too many atrocities… I wish for this all to end. And I don’t believe you can be the one to end it.”

“I understand, Father.” Daamya’s voice was gentle as his hand closed over his father’s.

The old man faltered, then let his face relax into a smile. “My son…thank you. I understand it must be hard for you, raised your whole life with the expectation…” he coughed again, and let himself sink back onto the pillows. “Please, Daamya. Send Younan in… I wish to tell him of my decision.”

“Yes, Father. I will. Rest well.”

The old man let his eyes flutter closed, relief flooding his body. The pain that racked him seemed duller somehow, now that he knew his heir bore him no ill will for his decision. And that maybe, perhaps, the whole war, the endless feuding between the Mayasu and the Sei Siari would be forever put at rest.

The pillow under his head slid out from under him, and his head knocked on the wooden floor.

Before he had quite any time to realize what happening, the pillow was being pressed over his face. He began to struggle, put he was too weak, and the pillow was being pressed over him with enough force that he couldn’t breathe. He was suffocating, sinking into unconsciousness, his jumbled thoughts and emotions spinning through his head. The last thought he ever had was Why?

Daamya held the pillow over his father’s head for a few minutes, even when he stopped struggling and his arms fell limply to the ground. The muscles in his arms forearms were tense as he pressed it down hard, making sure that not a bubble of air could escape. When he was quite sure his father was dead, he carefully removed the pillow and placed it back under his head.

He stood up, pale eyes fixed on the corpse of his father, and for once, a slow, viciously triumphant smile spread across his face. It was gone as soon as it had appeared.

He turned around and left, his soft footfalls echoing in the dim, silent room.

He nodded to the young woman at the end of the hall, who had her head bowed and her hands twisted worriedly in her skirt. “Sumari, Lord Makyan has passed on to the afterlife.”

She let out a high wail and buried her face in her hands. Unaffected, he coolly informed her, “He has named me his successor. Please inform the clan. I have matters I have to attend to as the new head of the Mayasu.”

As he turned to head back to his rooms, a ghost of a smile flitted across his face again, unseen as Sumari wailed behind him.


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