Living Story Excerpts
…the next morning he was on the road again with his ram and the imp and a large supply of beer basted boar ribs…
The delivery was made and the fee for it paid. Still he was a little short, so Seryth agreed to look into the local kobold problem for the dwarves. He did his best to ignore the imp supplementing his fire bolts with some of its own…
kobold = rukh-sham
An expected change, as most of the beast and brute races of World of Warcraft translate into this race, instead.
I write this today after taking a cold hike up in the mountains. It’s the day after we had some snowfall, so I’m cold and wet and wanted nothing more than to curl up in bed with a good book… or in this case, a laptop to write a good book! As Sirith is traveling up into the mountains himself, my experiences today helped inform some of the imagery and feelings of Sirith as he moves on to Stonefield.
The bounty for the rukh-sham teeth carried Sirith through several more days travel without needing to stop to earn his keep. The Tarithian Mountains drew nearer, occasionally disappearing as he went down into the folds of the land or followed the road as it wended its way through trees or the buildings of a tall village. By the third day, a light drizzle began to fall, and Sirith shook out his hair from his hood. Exposing his face to the rain garnered him some odd looks from passer-bys, but he relished being able to see so far through the gray without the sun stabbing his eyes. The ympe crouched down in his pack, looking like a bundle of firewood, and complained about the damp whenever Sirith poked at it.
Throughout the day, a fog rolled down over the mountains, covering their approaching bulk in white cotton, and Sirith could almost believe he was back in Hillet with flat plains all around. That was before the land began to slope up. The mud of the road turned grainy and then gravelly, its gray becoming a delicate pink to match the granite hidden in the heart of the mountains. The ram instinctually carried him up along the rocky crest appearing on one side of the road now, rather than dirty its hooves in the center.
A veil of trees closed in on them early in the fourth day, dark shadows through a morning fog. First came the elms, and then there was pines and bark-less, twisted junipers. The sides of the road yawned up on either side, and the middle of it narrowed into two small V’s with grass between them, the rain trickling down their centers. The road followed along the edge of a hill and then took a sharp U-turn, see-sawing up the slope like a shelf.
The ram under Sirith paused, snuffing at the edges of the road. Sirith urged it forward, and as if taking that as a cue, it bolted straight up the hill, ignoring the road all together. Sirith yelled and crouched behind its horns, which luckily took the brunt of the branches smacking them from both sides.
Tirelessly the ram jolted up to the top, then paused, turning lengthwise to trot along until it came back to the road. Sirith sat up, squinting through the rain. There was a level for a while before them, then the hill dipped back down, snaking its way around a brook before climbing up another hill much like the one they had just come up, only it was taller. Beyond that, through a gap in the clouds, he just could see the first peak of the mountain range.
It wasn’t very large, not even tall enough to carry a crown of snow, but Sirith felt his heart leap into his throat. He let the ram meander under him as he stared at it. The mountain was magnificent, but also filled him with a sense of disquiet so subtle he wondered if it was instinctual. He would be exposed up there as soon as the clouds blew away, he thought, open to the full light of the sun and the cold and — did the Tarithian Mountains have wild gryphons? They were bound to find him tasty, if so. He started to shiver, and it wasn’t just from the cold damp.
The moment ended as another front of the rainstorm drew clouds over the peak like a curtain. Sirith lowered his head and urged the ram back onto the path, thinking gloomy thoughts.
The next day dawned clear and bright. The light was a steady glow from between the branches of the spruce Sirith has sheltered under for the night, a blue that grew into a steady pale yellow by the time he was finished striking camp. His neck was sore — the ympe-cat had used his shoulder for a pillow for most of the night — and it was in a bad mood that he mounted the ram and was away.
The climb up the mountain pass was easier from the back of the Sheyn goat than it would have been if Sirith had climbed it all himself. Faster, too: by midday there was a distinctive chill to the air that was not from storm or wet but because of the altitude. They were past the first fold of the mountain range now, and all around him was hillsides or cliffsides or far-off peaks, but most of all, there were trees. Pines were everywhere: balls of greenery on the lowest slopes, or spikes like so many spears held up in a salute as the spruces replaced them on the heights.
Sirith had turned off the main road at a signpost marking the way to Stonefield two hours ago. The ram now trotted along a flat, rocky path more suited for a donkey than a wagon. Pine needles sometimes covered the trail in drifts, but also snow.
The trees above shielded him from it, but each glance at the white peeping between their trunks made his eyes smart. After a few minutes of staring around, trying to follow the line of the trail to its destination, he trusted that the ram knew where it was going, and just stared at its neck — or, more often, kept his eyes closed altogether. The cold grew even as the sun continued its march across the sky, and he modified the ympe’s fire spell to warm his hands.
He heard Stonefield before he saw it — the echo of metal clanking against stone and, once, an explosion rumbling its way down the pass. The ram quickened its pace and let out a bray: distantly, another one answered it. The beast crossed out onto a broad, flat road that could’ve taken a couple wagons side-by-side, and Sirith, through his squinted eyes, appreciated the fine rock shards someone had covered it over with for traction.
He put back his hood and looked up, near instantly regretting it as the sun slashed through his pupils, but through that, he could make out a series of scaffolding and giant wheels built into the side of the mountain. The mountain itself had been quarried so it almost looked like steps, the trees all cleared away. A huddle of narrow, timber shacks clustered at one end of the mine, and it was up to these that the road was leading them.
Sirith reached into his pack to pull out the satchel of letters the Little Folk had given him to deliver. As he searched for a likely person to take them off him, he felt a little sinking in his chest. His grand adventure was nearly over, and he’d soon have to return to Daelin and explain to him the delay and the lack of their expected profits. He hadn’t even seen a gryphon.
As he trotted into the mining camp, the quiet of the place broke through his thoughts. The relative quiet, that is: somewhere up in the quarry, there was another explosion and then a loud whining, whirling sound, like a mill wheel going too fast for its track. Some of the Little Folk’s mining equipment, Sirith thought, until he came out on the other end of the camp and could look across the mountainside.
The stones were moving out there. At first, Sirith thought they were being brought up out of the mine by cart, until he could see there was no machinery among them: they were rolling around on their own accord, now standing and forming into vaguely human-shaped hulks, threatening a group of Little Folk entrenched in a ravine.
He knew instantly what had happened. The rukh-shami had made it up here, as well.