Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The law of the plains, chapter 11

(Happy new year everybody! After a long break for the holidays, here is the next part of our story. 

This is chapter 11 of the Law of the plains. In the previous chapter, the rescue party encounters razorcats on their way and have to split up to deal with them....

As planned, the razorcats had followed the two braves in a fury of growls and snarls, enabling the rest of the rescue party to continue safely towards Wakaree. Yaghan's twin suns were lazily rising above the horizon and their slow orbiting around each other created incredible changing pastel tones. As always, the Nʉmʉ were awed by this magnificent spectacle. This was why they lived in the plains, despite the morlocks, despite the predators, despite the tornadoes and the cold of winter. They were free and lived in harmony with nature. They could ride with their heads high, proud Lords of the Plains, crowned by the shimmering rays of the suns, breathing the fresh and pure air, savoring the pristine and savage beauty of the monumental landscape that they called home.

Kanaretah was worried sick. She did not show it, but still, she took a moment to thank the spirits of the plains, the spirits of the suns, of her horse and her own guardians. Such beauty inspired respect and thanking the spirits properly was a way of asking forgiveness for intruding on their territory. She knew the other riders  were doing the same. It was important, and not doing so was bad luck on the hunt.

As it turned out, finding Wakaree was quite easy after that, despite the rising morning fog that started to blanket the landscape. Maybe the spirits were pleased indeed. The party kept in the general direction indicated by Tabbananica and Kanaretah was soon able to find tracks typical of a horse with a rider on its back.

As they cautiously approached Wakaree, they could see a slump on his back. No doubt about it, it was Yahneequena.
As  they got closer, Pisunii started shaking and pawing the ground.
"She is afraid, Wakaree has made contact with her, he is scared beyond belief apparently. It's rubbing on her" Towasi said, responding to the inquisitive gaze of Kanaretah.
She nodded and asked her own mount, Neraquassi, to try and calm Pisunii, when suddenly, Wakaree spotted them and to their consternation, started to trot in their direction. Immediately, Kanaretah made the gestures for a circling maneuver. Tabbaquena and Kotsoteka each split on both sides, positioning themselves on Wakaree's flanks. They gripped their bows and nervously glanced aside, keeping watch for any kind of danger.
Kanaretah made another gesture, ordering Towasi to go meet the scared horse. Pisunii immediately sprang forward. These two did not need words to communicate and acted as a single mind. The young rider grabbed her short lance, ready for anything.
When she got close enough to seize Wakaree's reins, her heart sank. What had happened? The beautiful palomino looked like a shadow of himself. There was white foam around his muzzle, his flanks were heaving rapidly and his eyes were raving mad. He closed the distance and burrowed his head in Pisunii's neck, as if he could hide there. The mare started showing her rider images from Wakaree's incoherent mind. He was relieved that help was there, but more than anything he wanted help for his little brother.
Yahnee was an even worse sight that Wakaree. His knuckles were white from clinging at his friend's mane, his mouth was twitching uncontrollably, he had evidently peed himself… But the worst thing was his eyes. They were open wide, but unfocused. It was as if he was not looking outside but inside and as if what he saw there scared him beyond belief.

Soon, the Nʉmʉ determined that there was nothing around that could have frightened him that much. They were great trackers of course, so they had no difficulty retracing the events of the night, like the fact that Yahnee had stopped, then turned around to fight carnirats. It was what had happened after that that was a complete mystery. He had evidently done extremely well and had dispatched the pack of vermin quickly, a rather impressive feat for a lone warrior. But after that, nothing. Wakaree had started galloping, to flee what? They had no idea.
If it had been a predator, there would have been no reason for Yahnee's madness. If it had been morlocks, there would be have been signs of battle, or more likely he would have been killed and devoured. Moreover Wakaree would have remembered it, but he did not recall anything strange apart from them routing the rats.

Finally, Tabbaquena reached for his drum and started a slow hypnotic beat. Soon after, he was spirit walking, but even that yielded no results. He was not able to reach the young Nʉmʉ, and the only thing he got from Yahnee was an incredible wave of fear. His mind was very elusive, always trying to escape as soon as Tabbaquena got near him. Finally, the old shaman had to give up. This needed more power, more time, a sweat lodge maybe. Something terrible had wormed its way in Yahnee's psyche, and trying to excise it on horseback in the middle of the plain was beyond the shaman's strength.

Completely flabbergasted, Kanaretah ordered them back to camp. They tried to get Yahnee on a fresher horse, but he would have none of it and sensing his anguish, Wakaree turned on them, biting and kicking. In the end, they gave up, the camp was only a few hours away at a slow pace anyway. Towasi changed horses however, and started to gallop towards camp with Pisunii in tow. Kanaretah could see no reason to move the whole tribe, but she was preoccupied by the incident, and just for the sake of security, she wanted them to move east slightly. That would get them closer to Gond, and it was always prudent to move if there was any doubt anyway.

And that was it. A few hours later, they had caught up and they finally were in sight of the caravan. As they drew closer, Kanaretah got Neraquassi closer to Wakaree and tried to grab Yahneequena's attention. "We've arrived boy, you can relax now. You are safe, all the band is here to protect you", she said in a soft and motherly tone.
Yahnee did not react, but his grip seemed to relax. Moments later, he was sniffing the air. They were smelling whiff's of the band's smell, the common smell of hundreds of horses, of dust in the air, of leather jerkins and equine dung. A stench they were all used to, that they  called home.
Towasi was already there and she was helping herding horses along the caravan, but when she saw her friends in the distance, she turned around and came to greet them.

"Ooh haa", she said. "Well met, travelers. We're happy to offer you hospitality tonight" she joked, smiling from ear to ear. She was happy to see them back safe and sound.
Suddenly Yahnee seemed to regain consciousness. He straightened up on Wakaree, startling the already spooked horse.
His eyes darted around, going from Kanaretah, to the caravan, back to her. +
"Why are we here!" he shouted.
"What?", said Kanaretah, alarmed by the violence of his outburst.
"No!" he started wailing. "No, no, no, NO! He is here, he is inside me, he knows where we are!"
"Stop!" ordered Kanaretah. "Explain. Who knows we are here? What are you talking about?"
But Yahnee was not listening. He was on the verge of madness. He looked around deliriously.
"No, he is here, he is here, it's my fault, it's too late!" he yelled. Then he fell from his horse, sobbing and staring at something behind them.

Kanaretah turned around slowly. The morning fog was slowly dissipating, revealing the shadow of a huge creature. A monstrous kʉtsʉtoya.
A monstrous kʉtsʉtoya with a great morlock riding on it. +
She could not believe what she saw. She had not heard or smelled or felt a thing. How could this monstrous thing have followed them?
The morlock raised an arm clad in an assortment of mismatched armor parts. A lipless, ashen mouth opened, revealing a row of sharp triangular teeth. Then he howled, a terrifying bellowing call that had her hair stand on her arms. She had never heard such an awful noise, it promised violence and pain and death and chilled you to the bone. It was not like her but she was transfixed, too much was happening at the same time, Yahnee sobbing and clawing his face with his nails, Wakaree neighing with fear, all the horses starting to loose their temper and this nightmarish creature unlike anything she had ever seen...

Finally the long howl stopped, and she regained her wits. But as she was about to yell her orders to her stunned comrades , she was yet again stopped in her tracks.

As the mists parted, more shapes started to emerge from the shadows and slowly solidified.

Morlocks. Hundred, no, thousands of them. +

"We're doomed", cried Yahneequena. "I've doomed us all!". +

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