Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Crosswinds

The Traveller advanced onto the plain, leaving the brooding melancholy of the hills behind. He stared out over the flat brown expanse of land, mottled with shadows cast by the clouds racing overhead. The old man had told him that the people had called it the Windy Plain, before they had gone away.

"Sometimes entire houses'd be picked up by the winds and carried away beyond the horizon," the man had said.

The Traveller stubbed out his cigarette. "Where did the people go?"

The old man had laughed, a stiff crackling sound like old parchment. "Where does anyone else goe, when they disappear?" His green eyes, still dancing with life, had shone in the light of the fire.

The clouds sped up. What few trees remained had been twisted into strange, surreal shapes by the constant wind. They began to creak. The Traveller held his hat to his head and clutched his bag tightly as the wind whipped around him. He moved across the plain, the sparse grass whipping at his well-worn boots. After some time, the wind let up enough for The Traveller to sit down and take a sparse lunch of stale bread and the coarse liquor that the old man had given him to keep him company on his journey.

"What's your name?" The old-timer had asked him, pouring a shot of the brown liquid into a small pewter cup.

"I don't think I have one." The Traveller had smiled sadly. "At least, I don't remember it." The fire of the liquor flowed down his throat, spreading warmth into his chest and setting a fire behind his eyes. Eventually it dimmed, and he slept, but could remember no dreams.

He finished his lunch and moved on. After a while small shrubs began to appear, with large, almost grey leaves. He recongnised it; people called it the Soul Plant. They said it gave you visions, that it turned men mad. The Traveller could attest to that. He bent down and, drawing a long knife from its sheath, cut several leaves and stuffed them into his pack.

He had found one of the same plants at the ruined house at the edge of the forest. He had kneeled and caressed its leaves as he gazed at the charred remains of the dwelling and the solitary cow skeleton nearby. The place had become quiet now, nothing left but memories and whispers of happier days, before reality began to die.

After about an hour of uneventful travel, the Traveller began to feel a pricking on the back of his neck. Looking up, he saw that he horizon was blurred and he felt the wind pick up considerably. He moved forward, turned slightly into the wind crashing against his side, the blur began to turn into shadows, and a low, irritating buzzing started in his ears. As he continued on, the buzzing grew, and the wind became stronger. He went in search of water, finding a small pond not far off. Its water was being thrashed around by the fierce wind, and had a sickly colour to it. The Traveller took out a small billy can from his bag and filled it with the water. He frowned at the horizon, then sat down and began carefully to build a fire in the lee of a distorted tree, using his body to help shield it from the wind. He boiled the water, and then crushed two of the Soul Plant leaves and threw them into the can. Soon the steam became infused with a smooth, slightly earthy smell. He breathed in deeply whilst he allowed the water to cool, and then drank it quickly. He got up, packing the can and his hat away, and then continued towards the blur.

Soon the edges of his vision began to fill with a swirling, coloured mist. His body felt like it was leaving a trail of dust behind it, as if reality had become a wind that flowed around him, much more strongly than any of the wind he had experienced so far. He looked up, and could see the stars in a deep, dark blue sky, even though the sun had barely moved from its position high in the sky. On the ground, even the tiniest eddie of dust had a strong, vivid resonance. He turned his attention to the shadow, which was now much clearer. It was a vortex, like a mini-tornado before him on the plane. Around it, a miasma of shadow swirled, pulling away the air, darkening it, corrupting it. From the presence came lamenting moans and beckoning whispers, inviting the Traveller to come within its reach. They left trails of shadow in the air as they moved toward him. He could see it for what it was now; just as he had believed it to be, it was an ancient Elemental, left behind from much older, more powerful days, corrupted by the passage of time and the gradual thinning of existence. Now it suffered, tormented by an evil that wished to consume all it came into contact with.

The Traveller gradually stepped around it, one hand held up, shielding his eyes from the sounds rushing toward him. He got upwind of the creature, and the moans turned into wails, the whispers into threats, promising him eternal pain and torment. Ignoring them, and the buzzing that still continued in his ears, he bent down and grabbed a handful of dust from the earth. He stood up straight and threw the dust up into the air, crying out a single word as he did so. He saw the word move up and merge with the dust and then the wind caught it as it began to glow, and carried it towards the Elemental. When it reached the creature, it crashed into it, and joined the swirling shadows. The vortex took on a sharp white light around its edges and began to shriek, sending out dark needles of sound that jammed into the edges of his vision, shattering the world where they hit. He quickly pulled out his knife, and humming to himself to keep out the sound, slashed into the air with it. The blade cut open a hole in the world, through which nothing could be seen, except perhaps the occasional dim star. The shrieking intensified, and he immediately dropped to the floor, looking upwards and clamping his hands over his ears. The shadows started to be pulled towards the hole, gaining in speed as they surged over him and out of the tear in reality. With them they pulled the vortex, which lost its shape, becoming a dark streak rushing over his head. Soon all that was left were a few stray screams but these too were eventually sucked through the hole. He threw up another handful of dust, which accreted around the tear and sealed it back up. The buzzing stopped. He remained still, lying on the ground as the world spun around him, moving faster and faster until it suddenly darted into his forehead and he passed out.

He woke up some time later with a dry mouth and a faint headache. The sun had finally started to move towards the horizon. He got up and re-sheathed his knife. On the floor next to it was a small orb, no larger than a big marble. This was the only sign that anything had taken place here, out in the Windy Plains. He picked it up. It was white, but with a faint purple tincture. On it, in tiny, delicate letters was inscribed a solitary word, "Kismet." For a long time he stood there, considering this and eventually put it in his pack, amongst his other varied posessions.

The Traveller put his hat back on, and continued forward through the wind, toward the horizon, where dark mountains had begun to form.

---

It's now 4:30 AM, and my own wine's fire has long since departed. I need sleep.

-T

3 Comments:

At 5:03 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really liked it. It reminds me of the Gunslinger a little bit, especially at the start. I assume 'twill continue??

 
At 8:24 pm, Blogger Thaddeus "B." Glands said...

I haven't decided if it will, yet. I originally only intended it to be a singular story.

 
At 2:16 am, Blogger Sable X. Veins said...

A lot like Tad Williams, in particular the Otherworld saga.

 

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