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Tysyacha 11-02-2008 03:10 PM

Umbral Tide: Chapter IV: The Root of the Problem
 
UMBRAL TIDE


Chapter IV: The Root of the Problem

"Hold," I hissed. "There's something--or someone--nearby. It could be a deer or badger, but it could just as well be a wolf."

A figure, the same one I had sensed just a moment ago, stepped out of the tree-laden shadows. "Wrong on both counts," it said sternly, its voice sending a chill up my spine. "I am Uulrek Nahasht, one of the ten Minstrel Defenders of this forest. Why have you come here? I'll have you know that if you're poachers, the sentence for such a crime is death."

"We're not poachers," I said, lowering my two swords that I'd salvaged from the rubbish pile at the Vagabond's Inn. "Neither have we come to hunt game without your permission. We are simply travelers, the four of us, and we're wondering how many days it will take us to traverse through this forest."

"Three days," said the figure known as Uulrek, a deeply tanned Forest Elf, "if Nature proves you worthy. Otherwise, you'll find yourselves lost in a quick while, searching for landmarks and finding none. It's best if you have a guide, and if you are whom you say you are and speak the truth, I might serve as one." Uulrek smiled, and he bowed to us. Then his spine stiffened. I glanced quickly behind me to see what had given Uulrek that sudden fear, and I gasped! He had caught sight of Haldiros, an Ebon Elf! "You--are accursed!" he scowled. "How dare you set foot here, the crimes of your kin upon you!"

"The crimes of my kin, yes," Haldiros replied, a steel-cold edge to his voice that filled me with dread and strength all at once. "However, is it fair to blame me for the deeds of my ancient ancestors when only I am here now? When does this monstrous thing called 'blood-guilt' end, that says children must pay for the sins of their fathers to the thousandth generation? I follow no god and no creed, Forest Elf, save that of justice. Your brethren believe in such a thing, and so why are you sentencing me to die ere you know me?" Haldiros crossed his arms across his chest, letting his blade and bow dangle menacingly at his sides. "I am Haldiros, and I mean no harm unless you yourself bring it." His eyes dared Uulrek to charge, but Uulrek stood down.

"You make a valid point," said the Forest Elf, "one that I would be a fool to ignore. You may pass, along with the rest of your fellow travelers. Who are all of ye," he asked, "that I may better get to know you before acting as your guide through the Woodlands of Zelyon? They are sacred to our kin."

"I am Vtorym of Ilthuul'xtat," I announced, "an exile, former Secundant to Lord Ilthuul. I betrayed him and the city of my birth, and was banished."

"I am also an exile," said Haldiros, "sent away along with Vtorym." He said my name with such respect and--dared I say it--tenderness? I blushed crimson.

"My name is Yradne Chetvera," said our resident Wizard, "as I follow the four winds and wherever they take me! I'm a sellsword of sorts, devotee of the Consummate Warlord, Vysoldat. I travel with these two on a mission."

"As do I," cried Bryan Borneblade. "Bryan Borneblade is my name. I live for three things: battle, brews, and buxom barmaids, when they'll have me!" He started laughing heartily, in high spirits, and I blushed again. Battle and brews were one thing to mention to this Forest Elf, but the barmaids...! At Uulrek's puzzled stare in response to his blunt introduction, Borneblade coughed and cleared his throat. "As Yradne said, we're all on a mission. Rumor has it that there are walking skeletons and the living dead in the wastelands of Hrauk, and that's what Vtorym and Haldiros got sent into exile for. They can't return until these rumors are either proven or disproven, and the Wizard and I are just along for the ride." This time, all four of us stared!

"I see," said Uulrek, speaking as if he'd just been sucker-punched in the gut. "I hold no grudge against any of you, or the arts that ye practice, just so long as you will not harm our forest or any of the woodlands you pass through! As for Zelyon, it is autumn now, prime harvest-time, and I have set up camp not too far from here--just a couple of miles." We nodded and followed the Forest Elf down winding trails laden with tree roots and other hazards, nearly tripping over our own two feet in the process! When we finally came to Uulrek's camp, it was beautiful, situated near a pristine river that promised clean water for us. Uulrek offered us some of his latest bounties--venison steaks, stewed pumpkin with cinnamon and wild spices, fried apples, the last of the season's wild onions, and honey cakes afterward.

"This is wonderful grub!" cried Borneblade, stuffing a fried apple into his mouth, "but where's the ale?" Not to worry--Uulrek had some of that, too. It wasn't long before we started sharing more of our story with him, no matter if doing such a thing was completely wise or not. The thing was, the more we delved into the suspicions surrounding the wastelands of Hrauk, the more that Uulrek seemed to understand our plight. It was as if such a thing had happened before, though not in our recent history, for Elves could live a thousand years and not show any sign of their memories fading with age!

"Sounds like someone's been reading Dvazhdi's books again," he said gravely.

"Huh?!" said we, not understanding. Who or what was this Dvazhdi?

"Dvazhdi Zhiva," replied Uulrek, "the Twice-Living, Priestess of Life, Time, and Undeath." He folded his hands in front of him as we sat 'round the glowing campfire he'd built for us. "All of her books and journals that detail her studies are supposed to be burned, lost to history and mortalkind, but now and again certain buried volumes turn up and allow one tyrant or another to raise the dead for their own craven purposes." Uulrek sighed. "It is not that I hate Dvazhdi. In fact, I admire her for her pure heart and what she tried to do, give everlasting life to all creatures--but in doing that, she first resurrected the dead from their graves, not knowing what she'd create! It was Dvazhdi who unleashed the curse of Undeath, or Living Death, upon the realm of Umbraltide, and for this she was very nearly burned at the stake."

"Who saved her?" asked Haldiros. "Or what, may I ask?" We were all curious.

Uulrek Nahasht took out a small harp, called a lyre, from his satchel and began to play a mournful song detailing Dvazhdi's rescue from certain death. (Author's Note: For the melody of this song, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5BKJ...eature=related)

The scent of wood-smoke taints the air.
Ashes nestle in her raven hair.
The blazing flames draw ever nearer--
Have mercy--"Gott erbam' dich ihrer!"
The sun will shine for her no more,
As the crowd calls her "witch" and "whore".
Yes, Priestess Dvazhdi shall know strife,
For to the undead she gave life...

"Mother! Mother!--Mother! Mother!"

This Dvazhdi had but one desire,
And for it, she would face the fire.
She wished all creatures life always,
Never to face their final days!
So when she finally reached her aim,
Eternal life for all to claim,
Those in their tombs rose from their torment,
Without full sentience, thus to warrant!

"Mother! Mother!"--"Mother! Mother!"

The undead saved her on that day--
She'll never age, she'll never die.
Time, life and death all crown her head,
But does she wish that she were dead?

"Mother! Mother!"--"Mother! MOTHER!"

The undead saved her on that day--
She'll never age, she'll never die.
Time, life and death all crown her head,
But does she wish that she were dead?

"Mother! Mother!
Oh, give us peace!
Mother! Mother!
Oh, give us peace!
Mother! Mother!
Oh, give us peace!
"Mother! Mother!
Oh, give us peace!"

"That, my friends," announced Uulrek as he put his lyre away (we were all weeping), "is the root of the problem, and only if we find this foul utilizer of Priestess Dvazhdi's forbidden rites, or the Priestess herself, can we solve it!"

"Poppycock!", cried Bryan Borneblade, sniffling loudly and wiping away a tear. "So a bunch of zombies and walking skeletons come and untie a pretty lass from the stake because they think she brought them to life, although unwittingly, and now they've all moved to the wastelands of Hrauk? Sheer poppycock, that's what it is! Although," said the wielder of the khopesh, "if there is some necromancer out there who thinks he or she can do what the Twice-Living supposedly did, I think their head would look nice mounted on my wall!" We all shuddered, laughed, and camped for the night...

Litofsky 11-02-2008 03:42 PM

A very nice addition, Tysy! I enjoyed the song very much, and how the story itself of the Priestess. The descriptions of each character also did well to better acquaint the reader with them.

Great job, as always! :)

Endorenna 11-02-2008 05:19 PM

Great chapter, Tysy! :D Can't wait for more. (Interesting story about the undead)

Andurilblade 11-02-2008 06:44 PM

I like it! I reeeally like it! :)

JediMaster12 11-03-2008 12:58 PM

This was a very good chapter Tysy. Your continuity and flow is well thought out. I especially like the confrontation between the two elves. Sounds like Uulrek is learning that it is not by a man's past can one be judged but by one's actions. Perhaps Haldiros would give further indication of his purpose later on?

I picked up on the fact that Haldiros said the Secundant's name tenderly. Do I sense something there or is it more of a wishful thinking? Anyway that caught my ear and I am curious as to were you plan to go with it.

The undead part was interesting. The skelton warriors rising reminded me of an old movie, probably Jason and the Argonauts, that had those. However for some reason I was thinking the undead not as zombies but as vampires. Wierd thought but I guess it is because they rise from the earth when they are created. One of my wierd thoughts. Anyway a goood example of how good intentions can be used against the person.

Good job and keep it up.

Tysyacha 11-03-2008 07:31 PM

There is kind of a "thing" going on between Vtorym and Haldiros, yes, because she thinks tha Ebon Elves (especially those who rescue her) are especially handsome and "worthy opponents" when it comes to "love and war!" Also, in the next chapter...

Well, you're going to go "OH, SHIITAKE MUSHROOM!" if I do my job right. :)

machievelli 11-13-2008 06:15 PM

read

LordOfTheFish 11-17-2008 12:06 PM

Fantastic job, Tysyacha. I'm enjoying how new friends are being brought into the story as the chapters come. Sort of like the fellowship. The song was great to. I look forward to reading chapter 5!


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