Started by Rathustra, November 10, 2015, 02:40:21 PM
QuoteSquirming, the meat whimpers and chews at its gag, rolling its eyes at me, at the darkening sky and at the ring of silent shapes around the mound of sand. It tries to speak so I hit it with one of the clubs, glancing the rounded tip off its temple. It shudders and contorts and goes still. It isn't dead - but it wouldn't matter if it was - it will still be fresh enough.I stride about the mound, drinking in the deepening, desolate silence of the canyons. There is a wind tonight, a storm building walls of windblown sand to the east that toy with and scatter the dying light of dusk. I look at my sama - our faces are covered, bound up in sandcloth and hide - but I know the eyes, the posture. I know each of them as well as any prey in the Pah. The shadows lengthen, an aura of crimson light lining the canyons to the west and soon all that is left of Suk-Krath is a bloody smear on the horizon. I turn and squeeze the chitin-lashed handles in my grip, my eyes joining the eight other pairs watching the advancing blade of shadow as it rises up the sandy hillock like something alive, seeming to sway this way and that along the ridges of rock and sand, pooling around the ruts left by the meat's struggling, bound limbs.Once the darkness takes the meat we begin. In shadow our light feet become heavy as we stomp and drag our weight. I curve around, between the ring of elves and the meat, letting my body, my posture shift - my shoulders hunkering forward, my arms hanging, weighted by the cunyati clubs in my grasp. My vele and veli follow suit - their silhouettes hunching and bending as they begin to mill about at the edge of the hill, their gait shambling and heavy. We breathe as one - deep, whistling breaths and bellowing exhalations. The volume builds as we become something else in the darkness. We are joined in our thudding and our hissing.The skull over my face becomes my face. The chitin over my hands become my hands. My arms fling up to the sky and I barely feel myself anymore. I am behind it all - behind the holes in the skull, peeking out from within the beast. The meat's eyes flutter open, align on me and the fear there empowers me. The prey is ready. The sama is ready. All that remained was to call our kin. So I begin. I slam the clubs down into the sand, kicking up sprays of dust. The flattened lengths are still only for a moment before I strike out again, slapping at the earth with the broad faces. Stone scrapes against wood and pebbles rattle and cascade, but all this and the wind is drowned out by the deep drumming of the clubs. The echoing blows lace perfectly with the scraping, scrabbling stomping of my kin. The cacophony builds like a feeding frenzy. Even the meat joins in, playing its part - screaming and pissing itself in the dirt as my stumbling gait draws the threshing clubs closer and closer.The revelry is cut short when Kiozk screeches. A high, elven sound. Suddenly, everything stops. I am no longer the mask. The power borrowed from my ancestors is immediately gone - replaced by an icy chill. They were here. Twisting my head about I see the sign - the eruption of deep, fresh sand off in the murky darkness, followed by a rapidly lengthening streak of soil stretching like a wezer trail straight for us. Another keening cry, then another and another. Five of them, five departed cousins come to our call. More than is safe. If I don't act quickly some of us would be joining them tonight, accepting that final embrace.I bark an order and take flight, quickly choosing a route away from the channels of churning earth and, Lannah be praised, all of the sama leap into action - their bodies elven and lithe once again as they almost dance across the Lirathu-bleached sand. Soh bound over the meat or dash around it, heedless of its increasingly desperate cries and I give it one last glance, committing its blunt, human features to memory. Then I'm away and the meat is just screams and the stench of dried sweat in the wind.Perched up on the butte with my sama and the huddling, terrified shapes of the unproven tew I thank the moons for their light. From here I can see the entire clearing - each footfall from our flight filled in with shadow. A hush goes over the assembled elves as the first anakore erupts, its hooked claws seizing the meat's legs. The thin, distant wailing and the unintelligible screams in its tongue dance on the cool breeze as the chitin-clad bulk of the dune freak propels itself from the sand. A second claws upwards and embraces the meat, tearing into its chest as it crushes it close, trying to drag it straight back down. The beasts tousle, each trying to claim our gift and the screams more and more desperate. A third 'kore silences it with its claws, twisting the meat's head at an unnatural angle as it joins the fray. Each creature struggles with the others, dorsal fins catching the moonlight as the meat ruptures and paints the mound red. Settling for the broken scraps, each anakore twists and burrows into the disturbed ground, withdrawing to feed. At last the night is silent once more.The journey back to camp is slow and filled with hushed, excited whispering. We travel high and keep to stone. We respect our sleeping cousins. I am silent, content to ponder the future. Every year more and more come with our call. Every year more and more children survive the harsh life that the wastes demand of the Soh. The pride in my blood warms me from within long before we spy the tents nestling in the deepest dark of the canyon wall. All the signs were coming true - with every sacrifice and every scalp taken. The coming of Lanah was soon and I and all my kin would be there to see it.
Quote from: RathustraThe sun rises and fresh, hellish heat washes across the dunes. Empty slashes of shadow drink deep of the kindled light, pooling and stretching long behind the scalloped crests and undulating humps that march in chaotic ranks northwards - north towards the mesa.A twisted shape huddles tighter into the darkness, as if struck by the light. Beneath its ragged aba it clutches at a split in its scaled flesh, probing at the blood-stained rag forced into the wound. None of the other creatures surrounding it stir, staying tangled in their filthy wrappings atop slicks of crimson-soaked sand. The survivor hisses and gnashes its jaw of broken teeth. Twisting, it claws towards and claims a spear, gripping it tightly and levering itself onto its knees. Bent-backed and scrawny, the gith callously examines the corpses of its pack-mates, grinding its teeth against the pain. Loping low to the ground on its hands and feet the gith moves swiftly, propelling itself with sinewy strength; An old waterskin, scraps of dried meat, Kelzuk's dagger, the necklace Agazuk wore - the one made from a straight-back's brain pan - all taken, all claimed. Laid out, it is obvious there is not enough to carry the survivor back to their place. The heat increases as the gith stares at its loot, at the ants drinking from Agazuk's eye, at the shimmering horizon, at the shrinking shadows and then finally towards the mesa. The heat oppresses the gith. The dust lines its slit-like nostrils and the sand grits its various cuts and wounds. All like flies against the overpowering apathy and undirected hate simmering in the elongated skull of the survivor. It pushes at the wound Pogluk dealt it in its side, coaxing it to bleed again and it hisses at the former warko's corpse, his grotesque face rended uglier by the broken axe wedged in its brow.The pack had been heading back to their place. They didn't have any water, no food - nothing but the dust in their mouths. Travelling at night as if hunting, they had slipped out of the mesa as soon as Pogluk had returned with the news that the chieftain had killed Kalaga for her poor tribute. His stupid smile had said enough - he was warko now and his bared, jagged teeth silently challenged the pack to disagree. Disagree so he could string them up from the cliffs. Dragged out of their memories for a moment the survivor scrapes clotted blood and sand from another cut with a nail before flicking the sludge away. So, with the new warko in control, the pack went to drag what was ours back to the mesa. To raid their own for the weak chieftain and his ash-smeared retinue.It had been hunger that finally did it. Hunger made gith strong - it wormed into their resolve and devoured their cowardice. It pushed Kelzuk to loose his spear square at Pogluk's back and tackle the warko as the pack crested the dune. The pair tumbled head over heels down the avalanche of red sand and the rest of the pack steadied themselves and exchanged dangerous looks through the gloom. The survivor remembers acting last - the fraying bonds of fear and abuse keeping their axe sheathed as their black eyes strained to read something in the hooded faces of the rest of the pack. Agazuk screamed and slashed at the one Pogluk liked to lay with and was set upon by another - the darkness ate their identity and the survivor almost went to his aid. But thirst and suspicion kept them steady until a spear blossomed from Agazuk's back. The dune slope descended into chaos as fractured lines of loyalty and mutual hate splintered the pack into a vicious melee. Kelzuk and Pogluk grappled at the base of the dune and the other half-dozen gith fought wildly against enemies both real and perceived. The survivor remembers killing two as they rushed to Kelzuk, loping, crook-backed down the slope - their axe took one across the gut - and looking now, the survivor sees that it's Helzuk that lays amidst streamers of offal. The second victim, the survivor beat with the blind face of the axe until they stopped moving after blundering into them and earning several deep cuts from a serrated blade. Ragged screeches and half-formed curses in heshrak filled the still night and the survivor briefly remembers a pang of fear bubbling beneath the rush of killing - what if a dune beast found us now?But no dune beast came. No horror from the wastes found the massacre as the sounds of fighting grew fewer and more desperate. The survivor didn't look back - they felt oddly drained - had the knife been tainted? But they kept dragging themselves towards the tangle of biting, clawing and straining gith. Blood flecked the sand even in the light from the white moon. Kelzuk's eye was put out, but he continued to struggle - sharpened nails gouging tracts over Pogluk's throat. Everything was so heavy - the axe seemed a boulder in the survivor's hands, grinding a channel through the sand underfoot to the cool, welcoming stone below. Watched in a daze, Pogluk exalts, pinning and blinding Kelzuk with his gore-splattered fingers, tearing away the eclipse-emblazoned gorget from his foe's throat to wrap his hands around and crush the life from him. The axe fell as heavily as it felt. Down, down - seeming to fall for an impossibly long distance - from the empty sky, from the ring of darkness at the edge of the survivor's vision. Even through the heramidic haze leeched the weariness and hunger from the survivor's flesh, even though they felt nothing of the cooling sands or the torn gashes in their flesh - they still despaired to feel a familiar, coiled hate and emptiness. So their face was contorted in fury as Pogluk twisted and hissed, lashing out with the snapped head of Kelzuk's spear. Punching through the scrab chitin of a cuirass made for a dwarf two heads shorter than the survivor, the would-be warko's black eyes glittered in the darkness as he twisted the haft, shredding muscle. But the survivor felt nothing and the axe still fell true on a head bared by the tumble down the dune. The flaking obsidian of the axe's head cracked as it bit through Pogluk's skull and the twice braced handle snapped for the last time, being pulled away as the force of the strike made Pogluk's body fall back, arms spread and eyes empty.All the was silent as the survivor dragged itself away. Enough sense remained to tear and plug their meat, to clutch and hold their blood in as the poison swallowed reality and left them insensate there, alone.And they were still alone. The red, baleful orb of the sun baked their back and dried the spilt blood of his pack. The survivor could not reach their place - they would die of thirst or by some creature's claws. The survivor could not return to the mesa without tribute - they would be flayed and fed to the dark things that lurked in the caves. But perhaps that death would be better than being alone or being consumed by the wastes. With bloodless and unsteady feet, the gith rises and leans their curled shoulders onto their spear, unblinkingly staring towards the chieftain's domain. Yes - that would be better than dying with their pack - unless...Her - maybe -she- would take them. Maybe she could give them that most beloved of things for a gith - maybe she and her pack could give them revenge.
Quote from: EurynomosRevenge.Two days.Two days the yiksha elves leave me here to die and choke on my own blood. But the red orb and hot earth bake my wounds shut. The sand cakes the life back into my body. The need for water makes me gasp for breath so that I might have my revenge. My dreams were of blackness and pools of ichor, moving through a haze under the Black Moon. Revenge.The warko abandoned me, but I have no revenge for him in my body. I save that glorious taste for the one who put a spear in my gut. I grasp the spear where it is still lodged, the old blood caked around it. As long as I leave the spear, I know I will not die. Not yet. Revenge.I struggle to my clawed feet, digging into the packed earth and drawing energy from its warmth. My blood has dried and stained the ground around me a lighter orange. There is one action I can complete -- Revenge. It drives me forward, down the crumbling road, towards death. Revenge.I come upon their filth pond to see them gloating, drinking their fire-drinks from a barrel and laughing over the headless corpse of my nest mate. They are skinning his head and turning it into a skullcap to drink from. My vision is blurry, my thoughts hazy, but I remember that I have fire and oil. I feel no loss, only the desire to inflict pain. Revenge.Behind a rock I hide as I pull the ember case up and blow through its depths, sending away the black ash and finding a sole red ember which I bring back to life. My gut feels like a thousand fires, wrenching with every breath around the obsidian spearhead lodged there. I touch the gourd's oil slicked fuse to the ember and it ignites. I send it as a gift to my yiksha elf friends, and they yowl in surprise and confusion when the flame takes them. I howl, in my tongue, "Revenge!".I pull the spear from my gut, knowing I will have only a few seconds to decide which elf it belonged to. I search their faces as they bat out the flames on their arms and bodies, and see the blonde-haired one that smiled over my body. I pause in my advance. I pull my arm back and release the bloodied spear, penetrating his throat and nailing him to the ground with the force of my swing. The last thing I see is the blade that cuts my eyes, but I die with the thought...Revenge. And through my grimace of pain is a smile of satisfaction.
Quote from: EurynomosThe dying sun held low against the horizon, a swollen mess of purple and reds like a bloody bruise, casting its wan light over the group of cloaked figures on their precipice, a shallow cave set into the Shield Wall. Two stood erect, loosely grasping long spears, while the third seemed to consult some portents and omens. This one held a long, clawed hand, moving a gnarled index finger between small chunks of bone and symbols traced in the sand that collected from the gusts that howled against the massive plateau."Here. They will make their stand, below us, at dawn,' he said, in a rough, gravely voice. The Warko, the leader of this pack, tapped on a small piece of bone. It was misshapen and yellowed, a knuckle bone of some large humanoid, probably an elf or human."How do you know this to be certain? Nothing is written in your sand and bones, it is just a ruse. Perhaps they have run off to their Pit." This sentinel, Graznit, had an ill-temper even for a Gith. He reeked of the human scalps he enjoyed keeping and idly chewing on as if it were jerky."You claim I am some trickster?" The Warko unfurled from his curled length, showing that he was not the least bit scrawny or puny. Muscle unfolded on muscle, pressing against the bandolier of knives tethered about his scaled flesh. He snorted a breath through his slit nostrils, yellowed eyes seeking Graznit's own. Though Graznit looked away, in quick deference."Good, then you will listen to what I have to say or you will choke on my blade. The shitcloaks will try to rescue him. They honor money and codes of honor, like fools." He kicked a lump of unmoving flesh with a bag wrapped around its head -- For it was hardly a human being, with all of the lacerations, bruises, wounds, and a missing arm that bled profusely. It did not respond to the kick in any case, though the aba covering its form pulled up in the strong wind."So you say, Warko. So you say." Griznit turned back to look to the horizon as the sun finally set, leaving an afterglow that lingered barely at all. "But if you are wrong? Would you stake our lives on it?""Gladly. Your lives are mine. And if you are cowards, then you will flee in the morning. But the shitcloaks will take you when you reach the bottom of this chasm. And I will laugh as you die, throwing spears into your cold body."The third sentinel, Hazanitzi, thumped his spear dully against the stone shelf, the bone charms shackled about the spearhead clattering, the first movement he had made in many minutes. He perked his head, and held up a scaled hand to pause their yammering."Enough. Listen. The spikes."The wind howled and moaned like a dying beast, deep undercurrents of painful sobbing mixed with high-pitched wails as the air slipped and slid through the cracks of the Shield Wall. But through the din, the howls, and the yowls of the wind, the Warko heard what Hazanitzi spoke of. The clinking and chunking of stone -- one, after the next, after the next, piercing like a knife through the wind.The trio stood tall, looking to one another, their rancid cloaks flapping. The Warko spoke first, amidst these sounds."Sounds like ten, maybe.""Twelve, by my count," responded Hazanitzi. He did have a good ear for these things, thought the Warko.Griznit cursed, idly rubbing a somewhat fresh scalp at his belt. Hazanitzi thumped his spear again, setting the charms to rattle. The Warko turned his yellowed eyes to the unmoving body with a bag wrapped around his head, drawing a jagged knife from his belt."I suppose we'll give them a welcome present, then." The two other Gith yowled in pleasure, readying themselves for the twilight battle on the shallow stone shelf, as the Warko began to saw the man's neck.
Quote from: MordiggianYigash pulled himself up the steep face of the butte, claws finding purchase in small cracks and divets in the worn, reddish-brown rock. A dozen more gith were fanned out on either side of him on the cliff face, some with spears lashed to their backs and others gripping jagged blades with their teeth. The night air was mostly still, and the climbers moved toward the torchlight spilling over the precipice some ten cords above their position with special care.Not so far away, on a twin butte to the northeast, Kazrak the Maggot and his warband would be undertaking a similar task. If Yigash and Kazrak survived the coming violence, one of them would kill the other. Yigash knew this, and determined Kazrak must die at the earliest opportunity. She would be furious, but perhaps Kazrak's share of the spoils would appease her.Yigash and his gith reached the ledge, and Yigash stretched out a gangly arm to snare the first sentry. The elven man's gaze shot down as he felt a clawed grip wrap around his ankle but before he could shout, Yigash yanked hard and the sentry was falling, skull clipping the edge of the cliff and cracking with a wet sound. Yigash didn't waste time watching the elf plummet toward the dark sand below. The distant, muffled thud told him all he needed to know.With that, Yigash and the warband were over the ledge and atop the butte. Elven sentries turned to face the cloaked figures coming at them too late to matter. Yigash watched as the spawnmates Vizat and Kezat fell upon a woman clutching a spear, like a pair of dune raptors. Wickedly-sharp obsidian knives slipped between the gaps in her chitin-plated vest and she crumpled, spear clattering to the ground. Yigash turned to see another pair of elves, a male and a female, making a break for the far end of the butte, and the elven camp below. Unslinging his shortbow and drawing several grimy arrows from the quiver at his hip, Yigash sighted the female as she shouted something to the other elf.***"Zinger, we need to wa-!"Zinger kept running, but he looked to Avya just in time to see a crude arrowhead sprout from her throat. She toppled and her momentum brought her face smashing into the rocks, hard. Zinger opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He kept running, toward the edge of the butte.As he reached the cliff, a sting in his right calf barely registered in his mind, but sent him careening off the edge nonetheless. He sailed through the air, limbs flailing, the face of the butte rushing past in a dark blur. The precise angle of Zinger's fall, or perhaps sheer dumb luck, led him to crash through a layer of sandcloth canvas and into one of the N'kala tents.The tent broke his fall, but only just. Zinger wheezed, trying to breath, trying to process his situation. He struggled to form anything resembling a rational thought, struggled to take a breath, struggled to see through the haze of pain and blood and tears blurring his vision.***Nix leapt up from her furs when the elf came crashing through the top of her tent. She looked on in shock, but only for a moment. Crouching beside him, she could see his left arm twisted at an impossible angle, and a jagged rib bone pushing through his bare chest. His body shook with every attempt at breathing. In spite of all of his, he seemed conscious. Unsure of what else to do, Nix wiped the blood from his eyes and face, her own jaw dropping in surprise as the broken elf tried to focus on her.It was Zinger. One of the scouts. He tried to cry out, but blood welled up from his throat and he began to choke. Nix grimaced and looked away for just a moment, when she noticed the arrow protruding from Zinger's leg. A horrifying realization dawned on her. It was an arrow all elves of the Abi'li'Pah knew.***The gith drew out screams into the night air with the edges of their blades, the tips of their spears. The elves that ran fell prey to arrows, coated in shit and death. The elves that could not run were set upon by the youngest spawn, the gith fresh out of the creche who were brimming with violence and rage and hunger afters years of abuse by the rest of the tribe. Yigash and his warband swept down from the southwestern butte, their assault on the N'kala camp heralded by a rain of fire in the form of Ghorog's gift - gourds full of liquid immolation and stolen from the false tribes of the Desert Above. From the northeast, Kazrak's pack came down in a fury of anger and blades, howling for blood.The fatal mistake of the elves was complacency. They thought themselves safe, so far north.Nobody is safe.***Yigash moved through the remains of the camp, taking short breaths and revelling in the bite of the choking miasma in the air, strong with the stench of charred elf flesh. All around, dregs of both warbands picked over the corpses of gith and elves alike, fights erupting and ending just as quick as it was decided who would take choice pieces of loot. Yigash paid no heed to the spoils, his warband knew to bring forth the best tribute if they wanted to avoid his terrible fury. Yigash had killed sixteen gith within his own warband since becoming Warko, and he kept their jawbones for totems. Few still challenged him directly.His eyes, orbs black as obsidian, were searching. Looking for Kazrak, who would surely challenge Yigash to claim the victory over the yiksha elves as his own. Yigash circled what was left of the camp twice over, with no sign of the other Warko. Yigash felt a probing otherness beating against the inside of his skull and Vizat's voice echoed with clarity in his mind. "This one has spoken to one of Kazrak's spawn, traded words and deep cuts. The Maggot was never here, never with his pack. The spawn was weak, did not last long enough for all the answers. This one and Kezat will go, will find where Kazrak the Maggot hides."Yigash hurled the presence from his mind and felt the subtle push of Vizat's loathing recede. That was no surprise to Yigash, he knew even his closest enforcers coveted his riches and his cloak. But what Vizat said gnawed at his thoughts. Like a maggot through corpseflesh. As Yigash raised the ragged cowl of his filthy rantarri-hide cloak, one pressing thought bubbled to the surface of the roil that was his consciousness.Kazrak the Maggot must die.
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