Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The High Tombs of Yuddoth: Episode One

Feral Geometries prowl the airless catafalques of the high tombs of Yuddoth.  Everyone knows this.  The ancient poets and long forgotten tyrants of obscure principalities deliberately chose to erect their outrageous cenotaphs and bizarre cryptoria along the highest, most inaccessible and treacherous portions of the very rim itself where the sky ended and the implacable void loomed empty and ravenous in the outerdark. 

Skran had explained this very same piece of common trivia to the children of his various former patrons as part of their elementary tutoring in history.  He did not find it particularly edifying nor very pleasant to be picking his way across the scree and jumbled debris at the very edges of the high tombs.  In this regard he would have been much happier to have settled for a more theoretical knowledge, even if it was inaccurate and incomplete.  Some things were just not worth knowing.

No one came to these dessicated, deserted places willingly, not even grave robbers or clandestine tomb-looters came here.  It was said that even the blue ghouls of Raluvadra would not follow a dying man into Yuddoth.  Even the dead knew better than to trespass upon the lingering shadows and lurking nightmares ensconced within the vaults that reared upwards from the jagged rock or leered ominously over roughhewn ledges spotted with lichen and the consecrating whiteness of high-nesting birds who tended to be oblivious to such things.  Skran's breath came in wheezing gasps.  The air was thin, damnably thin and it cut into his lungs with an icy chill that was making further progress all the more difficult.

The howls of frothing scale-hounds served to motivate the ragged scholar to redoubled efforts at escape.  His hands were bleeding where the sharp, cold rocks had cut into him as he struggled for handholds.  A trail of frozen blood spots dotted the way he had come.  They wouldn't even need their hounds to track him.  It was as tight a spot as any Skran had ever found himself in and that was saying a lot.  Which was typically how Skran got into tight spots; by saying too much that had best not be said.  But he wasn't talking too much now.  Breathing was hard enough in the bitter cold, exceedingly thin air.  He kept going, slipping from a precarious grip here to a wobbly foothold there, always moving onwards and upwards.  There simply wasn't anywhere else he could go.  Unless he decided to leap to his death. 

"Hah!  The bastards would like that though, wouldn't they?" he muttered to himself.  It was not in his nature to accomodate the wishes of the ignorant no matter how strenuously they clung to their opinions.  That was something that Skran would not, could not do.  Unfortunately those individuals most likely to experience Skran's scathing wit first-hand were most often the very people least equipped to appreciate his expertise and simultaneously those most inclined to take offense at his abrasive honesty, biting commentary and encyclopedic facility for insult.  It was a gift, a way he had with people.  And now his gift with such things had resulted in his being forced to flee into the most inhospitable region known to civilization, completely unprepared and ill-equipped for the extreme conditions.

Blood pounded in Skran's ears, his breathing was torturous and labored.  His hands burned with what was undoubtedly the onset of frostbite.  He lurched and slid, struggling desperately to finally get himself onto a precipitously narrow ledge where he collapsed in exhaustion.  He didn't have a lot more strength left to him.  He was stiff, cold and miserable.  But he needed to catch his breath, if only for a moment.

It was then that Skran knew that something was amiss.  He clutched the stone of the ledge as tightly as his numb fingers could grip and strained to listen for all he was worth.


The air was too thin for much of a wind, but what there was sliced through his tattered rags as though he were naked.  His bones were like ice.  He would not survive for much longer without shelter, fire, rest. 

He continued to listen.  The howling of the hounds sounded as if it were far, far away.  It took him a little while to realize that the vigilantes had turned back.  They had abandoned the chase.  He had out run, out climbed, and out distanced them and the Lords of Jiskan and their expensive jarpha mercenaries were loathe to go any farther into dread spaces that had intimidated their forefathers for millenia.  Skran snorted, too tired and cold to laugh at their superstitions, even if those same beliefs had saved him from being torn to pieces by a pack of half-crazed scale-hounds.  They were afraid to follow him farther, but why should they bother?  All they needed to do was wait and watch.  If he came climbing back down, they'd spot him and it wouldn't take much for a sling-stone, arrow or flechette to bring him crashing lifeless at their feet.  Going back wasn't an option in oh so many ways.  He had to find a way through this region.  Even if that meant climbing still farther up, to the very limits of his lungs' ability to draw in enough air to keep going. 

Painfully, slowly and deliberately, Skran shifted his position on the tiny ledge and surveyed his surroundings.  The canyon walls were becoming increasingly sheer and unclimbable, especially for a man with no tools or equipment.  It was a futile effort.  The Lords and their moronic jarphan fascists were probably laughing their asses off over his stupidity while enjoying warm beer and mulled wine.  Let them.  With any luck they'd drink their way through the wine casks that Skran had urinated in off and on over the last couple of months during his falsely-forced servitude to Lord Vasco.  He smiled at the secret knowledge that even now the ignorant buffoons were most likely swilling his piss even as he froze to death far above their horrid little settlement.  Skran started to laugh.  There simply wasn't anything else left to do.  He laughed until tears came and then he was falling, sliding and tumbling down the steeply sloping rockface he had so painstakingly climbed only minutes before.  Gravel skittered and stung him like a swarm of angry insects.  Rocks struck him viciously.  Pain exploded mercilessly through every fiber of his being until black emptiness rolled in overwhelming Skran's brain with a cacophonous dissonance that hammered him until he passed out as the minor rock slide carried him down and away.


Rob L said...

Great stuff! Looking forward to the next installment.

NetherWerks said...

Thanks for the kind words. More stuff coming soon!

Yanantil said...

This is fun! Can't wait to see where the slide takes him. :)

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