At World’s Edge – Chapter 6

The basin was home to monolithic stone structures, high towers of rock that grasped at the sky. They were eerily smooth at the base as if a vast river had once pooled around them, or as if a lifetimes worth of sandstorms had peppered them. Atop the structures the odd plant grew around a more uneven, rougher surface. It was as the magician had seen, or at least part of what his far sight had told him. The band weaved between the bare stone forest for what seemed like hours, but as they furthered their journey forward, they became more common. There were several in sight at all times now. The towering rocks became denser in quantity, and as their numbers rose, so did the crackling tension of the group. A weapon could be fumbled and dropped, and the resulting sound would have made all but the steeliest of warriors jump. But they were all shaken, impaired by the scene that Mahofon had made the night before. And most had made the conclusion that these towering piles of stone would be something related. They feared what they could see, yet not understand.

The sun began to fall from its perch in the boundless blue expanse of the sky. It sank to be pierced by another stone monolith, with the sky shifting from orange to blood red. Now the structures casted dark shadows across the landscape. Finally, the sun crawled below the horizon, and the remaining rays of sunlight died out. The warriors soldiered on, although their packs became heavier, they stumbled more often, and the feet bled in their weary boots. Night set in a dark water that flooded the ravine; it pooled just out of reach, seemingly impenetrable, claustrophobic. It was from that darkness the giant’s fingers, stretching for the sky, appeared, their tips forever shrouded, despite the moonlight, by their mystery.

The silence now was unbearable. Yumipon quivered in the cold, and shook to think of what had turned the magician temporarily mad. The air was icy, however, and that was a distraction. For many hours now he had pondered the purpose of these towering blocks of natural stone. How natural were they? He was aware that Cescar would have the best idea, but he felt like he couldn’t ask. Mombulu planned for camp to be set soon, but this wasn’t before another tower grew from the darkness ahead of the band. This one, Yumipon noted, appeared wider at the top than it did at the bottom. For several minutes, Yumipon felt himself trembling before it. He would break eye contact, and then when he looked up it seemed to have lurched closer. After an hour of feeling disconsolate, he was able to make out the structure. It was by no means a simple rock formation, but a Karmen battle tower, fashioned from the twisted rock structure. What filled the archer with dread, however, was the damage the building had sustained. Swords were scattered throughout the wood and stone; arrows and spears also tarnished the surfaces that created it, but they were old, rusted – nothing the Cefiras had used for decades. Atop the tower was crowned some mangled tree, stout and dead. But hung from it was a beehive, as bone grey as the parched wood. Yumipon could hardly redirect his eyes, despite his terror.

(Cont.)

At World’s Edge – Chapter 5

As morning crested the side of Tink Ravine, Mahofon stirred. He blinked but it hurt. He lay on his back, feeling a great tension in his muscles. Very cautiously, he turned his head to either side, testing his diminished strength. With him lay Dulkatra, who clutched his hammer as he slept. The tents were cramped and unsuited for the two of them. Light filtered through the thin hide of the tent, highlighting the patchwork and stitches that kept it functional. Other than some scattered belongings, that was all that resided in their shared home.

Mahofon worked the courage to sit up, and eventually he gathered himself and his drooping staff to face the sun once more. His skin felt sensitive to the change of light intensity as he pushed the cover of the tent and stepped outside; the aftereffects of his far sight disaster, he knew, would be felt through the following, trying days. He had pushed it too far – it was an arduous task regardless, but he had tried to sense something far beyond his understanding. He had been punished. He questioned what could be capable of such immense power, that it could attack him without contact, in fact with a sizable distance between the two. It was magic he had never before seen, even as the leading magician of the tribe. His mind was far from at rest, filled with dread as to what exactly existed is this wasteland.

He gazed around the small campsite. The smoldering remains of the fire sent wisps of trailing smoke skyward. The few that had awoken lounged around, eating foul smelling meats or talking – once they saw Mahofon however, silence prevailed. No one dared asked what had happened, and a steady fear seemed to creep to each one’s eyes. After some time, the chatter returned. Tents began to be rolled and strung to packs, and before the sun reached midday, their steady march went on. It wasn’t long before irregularities began to appear in the terrain.

(Cont.)

At World’s Edge – Chapter 4

His curiosity, however, was suddenly upon him. He strained his eyes then, and through the shrouding pools of darkness he could see jagged monoliths of brown rock, like knives threatening the sky. It was a sparse forest of stone that Mahofon knew he would encounter. Yet, through the black fog that remained unvarnished by the fire he had lit, he could sense the presence of a different towering structure. He closed his eyes now, and strained. For a timescale he was unable to measure, he sat still. He felt as if he had reached his hands into a box of unknown contents, groping for something important yet hidden. He knew suddenly, in an enlightened moment, by feel alone, that something was there, beyond his sight, but not from grasp. With a cry, he leaped to his feet, and buried his face in his hands. His face burned under some unearthly scrutiny. Chatter halted then, and faces turned to watch Mahofon as he struggled. He began to claw at his face like a mad cat; it was then that Dulkatra, with his hulking body, stepped forward and restrained the magician.

“What in Almighty’s name…” A voice from the crowd trailed off. “There, there!” Mombulu had rushed to his aid also. Although from the corner of his eye, he saw that the staff Mahofon had dropped had squeezed its own eye shut. The wood that made the handle seemed contorted, strained, as if put under immense pressure – or pain. After a few minutes, and after what seemed like hours, Mahofon fell limp. It was then stated that he had merely fainted from exhaustion after some inspection by Cescar. With the nerves of the band calmed after some time, they returned to their duties. When the full moon glowed faintly above them all, that was when they finally rested. They seated themselves on rotten logs around the fire then, Mombulu among them. Mahofon had been retired to one of the tents whilst he rested – the standard bearer had placed his staff next to him. It was yet to blink.

A horn was played as the wood in the fire glowed a deep orange. It shattered the silence and echoed melodramatically off the canyon’s edge. The sound was deep, familiar to the soldiers. It banished the unknown out of the location that was so smothered in darkness, a crater of refuge. A song crept through the ranks of sound as more began to join in.
And once the music faded too, so did the group disband to their tepees. Even the sounds of shuffling, and the harsh snap of the crackling fire would part ways to become an element of the truest silence, resonating in an ocean of darkness.

(Cont.)

At World’s Edge – Chapter 3

Mahofon clambered down the last of the cliff-face. To his estimation, it must have been a sixty-metre drop, but with such unchanging weather, safety could be gathered through time. There is little risk or rain, he mused, otherwise these smooth rocks could have been fatal. He held a staff as he descended, a twisted green cedar intertwined with a single, smooth brown branch. It concluded, at the end, with a purple eye. As he touched the floor of the ravine, he gazed out across the new plain that stretched before him. I have merely descended the step of a giant’s staircase, he thought. It was a vast ravine, and the rocks found now in the basin were smoothed. He ran and caught up with the remainder of the group that had gathered away from the giant’s step, “retreating from the dangers of falling rock” as Mombulu had stated.

The troop began to erect a camp. Several tents crafted from a rough hide were placed on polls high, and pegged down. The fall of Dulkatra’s hammer could be heard amidst the general chatter that had gathered from the others, and, of course, the incessant wind. He was pressing the pegs into the ghastly ground. The sun set behind them as others ventured to collect wood. Its final rays were snuffed out by the step they had taken, and a pile of tortured wood was formed at the center, now in almost complete darkness. Mombulu called Mahofon over, and requested a flame from his staff. Unlike Cescar’s own staff, Mahofon’s blinked now with the request uttered. Mombulu stared somewhat worriedly at the staff – he often wondered if it could feel.

Mahofon strolled up to the firewood, and with a small utterance of his own, the dead wood spluttered into new life. Flames licked the heavens and embers danced among the dark expanses before falling back to the brown soil. He retreated somewhat, and sat on the outskirts of the flickering light. The exhaustion of the day caught up to him now; his legs almost collapsed under the aches of marching.

(Cont.)

At World’s Edge – Chapter 2

“The genesis of our journey,” she stated, turning her back to group as she did so, “Begins ahead!” She rose both her arms as she spoke, and the feathers at her back quivered at the spectacle. “May the generations of Earthend observe kindly our transit across this burial ground.” She spoke as if it were still in use, yet no Cefira had set foot here for centuries. “We should tread lightly,” continued Cescar, “Respectfully, for our sagacious ancestors watch both action and intention.” With the end of her short speech, she marched on wards to the sound of a not so distant drumming. It would be several more hours until the mere patch of dark in the distance would expand to evidently become the vast gulley they searched for. The sunlight had showered what little remained of the cowering plants as early morning appeared, causing a rout within the ranks of darkness and death among the sparse droplets of dew. The band ventured, now in the fall glaring capacity of the sun, towards the cliff edge that halted their otherwise incessant advance. A few strolled to the edge, glanced over at the dizzying canyon below, and scuttled back. After spying a point of cliff edge that entailed a somewhat easier descent, Cescar stepped ahead of the crowd she had fallen behind once more, saying “Under the scrutiny of this scorching sun, who will descend first unto this hallowed land?”

Awkward shuffles emanated from the group – heads went down, fingers traced the handles of weapons and eyes adverted the gaze of their guide. It was only after an excruciating silence that the figure clasped in robes and a lightening mask stepped fourth; now even the slight bustle was halted, as he silenced the band with a look of disdain. “Myamsar?” Cescar asked. It was his permission to speak; “A display hardly worthy of that name. I shall go!” He growled, making distinct eye contact with each apparent warrior whom he stood before. It was revealed, like the first rays of sun piercing a fog, that it would only be the brave that would survive this journey. Perhaps all would make it through this ravine unharmed, but many had fallen, and many knew they could. In the grasp of common sense, it should have been apparent that it was the withholding or withdrawal of confidence that would cause the Cefira’s failure. One of them should have volunteered; perhaps all of them should have. Afterall, it will be the brave souls that shift through the next altercation unharmed, not the dead.

“Honour has a height of forty-eight thousand feet, and it only one’s self that holds them back from the ascent.” Myamsar spoke in a low tone, his eyes staring into the distance. It was but a blink of an eye, however, before he was racing down the side of the cliff. Spectators rushed to the edge to the see the sight. He bounded from rock to verge, from edge to outcrop, descending for several minutes until he reached the foot of the cliff. His landing threw up the faint sound of a drum. One by one then, they traced the path Myamsar had followed, Cescar last, assisted by her staff, and the Cefiras, the warriors, most burdened by their embarrassment.

(Cont.)

At World’s Edge – Chapter 1

The desolate visage stretched as far as the days felt long. Spread was a fine saline dust that painted the flat landscape. The earth cracked under the pressures of parchedness, and only the sporadic appearance of shrubbery suspended the otherwise repetitive atmosphere. Bare were the brown bushes that sprouted from the mosaiced ground, between splits and trenches that the arid air had carved. It was a portrait of repulsion, and a scene of despair, and brave were the souls that skimmed across its terrible surface. They would be glad when they left the dreadful silence behind. A most spacious cell was where they found themselves, marching to a distant drum. They pondered at the fleeting beauty of the clear sky only to be dragged back to reality as they stumbled over the brown rocks that littered the land. The vastness of the barren plain was second only to the expansive sky that appeared as a speckled veil thrown over blue-black.

Kicking up a screen of dust as they went, the band marched on wards. The metal of weapons could be heard scraping; the rustling of hide bags and their contents was also audible. Standing proud was the standard ahead of the group, a flag bristling in the wind, attached to a blemished wooden staff. The cotton banner itself was entirely black, save for the white orbit that decorated its surface, followed by a black orbit, and then a white circle center – it resembled that of a colourless eye. It was supported by Mombulu, who held nothing else for it was his sole purpose. He was shortly tailed by a more mysterious figure. His face bore an orange mask with a red strike down the center, and strung to his belt were two curved blades. They were a steely grey with streaks of yellow; they glinted ominously in the starlight. He seemingly surfed across the alkaline sand; his movements were gracious yet timely. His whole being would impose a dreadful fear into his adversaries – he knew this well.

With the others shuffling behind the standard, Mombulu turned and called over the gentle chatter of the band, “I can see the ravine ahead”. At his mention of Tink Ravine, a stillness spread through the crowd. It was a nervous hush that instigated the sound of the sands shifting into the limelight. Bustling through the remainder of the crowd came their religious oracle, Cescar. In one ancient hand she held an even more antiquated staff. It was the same, albeit slightly short, height as her, with several circles of wood carved from the cedar it was shaped from. Like a tree weathered by the relentless storms of dust, the staff was scarred by age, with the surprisingly agile woman showing no sign of her own fragility in her confident movement – she thrust the staff forward. Her green cape dragged across the floor, frayed, whilst her collar contained a collage of feathers that rose above her head high. As she barged her way through the bundle of veracious warriors, she came to a halt and gestured to the far distance

(Cont.)