Sunday, November 30, 2014

The law of the plains, chapter 7

(This is chapter 6 of the Law of the plains. In the previous chapter, Yahnee got distracted by predators from the plain, then came back as a spirit towards the wind train Veronica to witness the aftermath of the battle)

In spirit form, he explored around the train. No humans where left standing on the ground. Apparently everybody had either managed to board the Veronica or was dead and laying in the grass. There was no sign of the Elites, which meant they were likely to be alive. The locomotive was quickly gaining speed, its steam engine going at full regimen, a rare thing for a Wind Train. Coal was a rare commodity that one did not burn unless really forced to. Some morlocks tried to jump on board, but the train was well conceived and the hatches resisted their attempts to get in. Deadly spears came out of strategically placed murder holes and killed the impudent, spikes sprang out of the axles of the wheels and prevented further approach. Soon, the train had distanced the horde and was safely speeding away.

What a relief!

Yahnee decided to stay only long enough to count the rough number of morlocks before going back to his band and ordering them to move. As a scout he was used to quickly estimating the size of a horde of pʉetʉyai or of a herd of kʉtsʉtoya. His work was made somewhat harder because they had surrounded the twelve compartments of the train and had tried to catch up with it, so they were really spread out. After a few seconds, he realized that even if they were really spread out, there was probably more than a thousand heads and at least 2 hundred more dead, staining the grass of the plains with the stench of their foul blood. In one place, he found a circular area surrounded by morlock corpses. He guessed that it was where he had seen the explosion. Whatever had happened here, its force had been truly enormous and had managed to project the cadaver of the kʉtsʉtoya that had blocked the rails several hundred feet away from it.


No, this corpse, it moved… Hence... It wasn't a corpse!

Yahnee's spirit got closer.

When he finally understood what his eyes were telling him, he was so terrified that he forgot to go back to his body.

A great morlock, that looked almost human and that was dressed in a patchwork of looted armor parts, stood on top of the giant animal. The latter was definitely alive and seemed completely tamed. Slowly, the straggling morlocks gathered back around it.

That did not make sense. Pʉetʉyai were not smart enough to tame the unruly kʉtsʉtoya . They did not have leaders, just alphas that were stronger and more violent than the average, if that was possible. Yahnee knew he should not have, he knew he had to leave and report this to Kanaretah and Tabbaquena, but it was too unusual. Curious as a cat, the young Nʉmʉ moved in closer to take a better look.

That's when the morlock shivered and turned towards him.

His skin was the color of ash, a lifeless white gray. Every visible inch of it was covered in scars. He looked even more battered than the average morlock, quite a feat considering that the monsters constantly fought among themselves for dominance.

He had a lipless mouth, that looked just like one more scar across his face. His eyes locked with Yahnee's, as if he was really there. His mouth opened in the parody of smile, revealing a row of triangular, razor sharp teeth. His gaze was malicious and malevolent and more than anything, it was the gaze of an intelligent being. But what startled Yahnee most was that he had the same black eyes as the dark warrior, a golden ring over an all-black iris.

The creature snarled. The glowing ring started burning a fiery red.

Yahnee tried to flee, frantically he tried moving the feet of his real body, the most certain way to be propelled back in it. Nothing.
He wanted to scream but nothing came out of his ghostly lungs.
He tried to turn around but he could only see one thing, the fiery red circle that grew and grew and filled his mind.
"Wakaree! Wakaree, help me! Wakaree!" he screamed, but nothing happened. The red circle still grew, transfixing and implacable. He wanted to run, to fly away from this evil ghost but he felt as if he was glued, as if he was running in quicksand. Every movement was slow and painful.
"Wakaree!" he yelled again, but his voice was muffled, the tiny voice of a mouse squeaking before an immense predator that filled the sky.
Desperate, knowing that the only issue was death, he stopped trying to escape and mustering all his courage, he grabbed his fighting lance. It was not there, of course, but his spirit recreated it in his hands. He pictured every detail of its shaft, the carvings and decorative fringes, the feathers and beads, its reassuring weight, its long blade made of meteoric iron, and suddenly it was there.
He yelled his war cry, and his voice was not muffled anymore, it was the proud war cry of the Nʉmʉ, the promise of a certain death for their enemies.

A deafening roar answered him and suddenly, the golden eyed morlock was right next to him, charging with a dark blade made of volcanic rock. Yahnee just had time to be surprised, morlocks did not usually use weapons… Very briefly, it occurred to him once again that the morlock shouldn't have seen his spirit form, let alone attack it. Then he stopped thinking altogether, and he parried the strike frantically with the shaft of his lance. It did not break, of course, it was as strong as Yahnee's will, but he felt the impact in his mind. He immediately went on the offensive with a vicious stab to his adversary's face. He had the advantage of reach, nevertheless the morlock dodged the strike effortlessly and retaliated with an amazingly powerful strike to Yahnee's gut. Once again, he parried with his lance, once again the impact shook his mind and his sanity vacillated. For a few seconds, the pain blinded him. They were not really fighting of course, it was a contest of will that Yahnee's mind translated in actual fighting moves.

Frantically, he tried  to backpedal, without effect. His spirit was stuck, like a bee caught in molasses. He struck again, trying to feint with a wicked thrust to what should have been the beast's blind spot… But spirits did not have blind spots.
The morlock caught the lance's blade in his bare hand and dropped his sword. Then, with a furious howl, he rushed forward and grabbed Yahnee's throat. He had claws instead of nails, sharp ivory claws that dug in Yahnee's flesh, drawing etheric blood. Yahnee wrestled him, trying to stab the morlock's golden eyes with his fingers but the monster was impossibly far away. He felt his whole etheric body being rended by its deadly grip, pain racked his mind, bringing him closer and closer to insanity. The morlock started laughing, an heinous, terrible laugh that sounded like madness incarnate.

Yahnee suddenly lost consciousness. The last thing he felt was a bone chilling cry of rage, as the prey eluded the predator.  

Wakaree was shivering with fear. He felt his brother tensing with pain on his back , screaming his name at the top of his lung, howling his war cry, yelling with terrible pain and fear. The proud horse kept calling Yahnee's name. "Brother Yahnee. Wakaree fear. Wakaree loves Brother Yahnee. Brother Yahnee come ride with Wakaree. Ride. Together. Fear. Brother Yahnee!". He feared for his friend's life more than he had ever feared for his own. The poor horse could not formulate these complex thoughts of course, but he would have gladly given his life ten times over just to hear his friend say his name and stop suffering. But his desire and his love for the young brave, as great as they were, did not end the pain. Yahnee kept yelling and yelling and yelling, his pain flooding the poor steed's mind. And then nothing. Yahnee's body went limp and his mind disappeared. It was still here but very faint, oh so very faint, fainter than a sleeper's mind. Somehow, he stayed in his saddle, his hands clenched on the horse's mane, his legs so tense against Wakaree's flanks that he remained stable.

Desperate, the steed did the only thing he could think of: he brought his brother back to the tribe, to the shaman who healed the bodies and spirits of humans and horses alike. He started to trot, as carefully as he could, as fast as he dared to without letting his brother fall. His despair fueled his muscles, all his senses heightened by his fear of losing his most important person in the whole world. He broadcast his thoughts has far as he could, his poor horse mind shaking from the tension of such a desperate measure. He was trying to reach the mind of Pisunii ["Little Star"], his sister, a proud mare as Gifted as he was. Suddenly he felt her and started shouting the only thing that he could think about. "Help! Help! Help!" over and over and over. He felt Pisunii answer him and relief washed over him. Then the connection broke. He was too tired and his task was done. Pisunii would bring the tribe to Yahnee. He stopped running, he was too tired to think, he just trying to keep his brother on his back. He started the long walk back home.

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