A whole new land awaits.
IMPORTANT NOTE: From here on out, pigmen will most likely be referred to as "pesru" and sheepmen as "kansru." This is reflecting the change in the "rewritten" version of the trilogy. Sorry for any confusion.
Chapter list: http://tanadin.dreamwidth.org/382.html
Map of the western continent: http://tanadin.deviantart.com/art/
Map of the eastern continent: http://tanadin.deviantart.com/art/
Western Sea, Beskeren. April 17, year 788. Time instance 483Z.
The waters rumbled and Vengeance gripped the nearest wall tightly, head snapping around to find the disturbance. He wasn’t surprised when Malkyr raised her head above the surface of the water, blinking several times to clear her eyes. She lowered her head to get even with the deck and waited for the entire prophecy group to assemble before speaking.
“We are approaching the shore of the eastern continent, known as Beskeren. I can take you no further without risking trapping myself in shallow waters.”
“Thank you for taking us this far, great leviathan.” Nessy bowed. “We can make it the rest of the way on our own.”
“Hmmm.” The leviathan blinked thoughtfully. “You have a hard journey ahead, one that will shape our fates forever.” She raised her head, surveying them with both of her eyes. “I believe that you can do it. And if you cannot, die well.”
Zekara pounded her chest with a clenched fist. “Been there, done that. Both of them, actually. Died well and succeeded. I’d rather skip the dying this time, though. Hurt like a bitch.”
“Good luck.” The leviathan dipped her head once more before diving beneath the waves, her dark shape disappearing quickly into the abyss below.
“Well then. Barros!” Zekara raised her voice to a roar. “Get the crew’s asses back in gear! We need to get to shore!”
Vengeance made his way up to the crow’s nest as the crew scrambled about to work the ship once more, and soon they were moving again, albeit much slower. He raised the spyglass and peered at the unfamiliar shoreline ahead, noting how it stretched across the horizon and seemed so much larger than the continent he was used to.
At this rate, it would take them most of the day to get there. He settled in to wait.
“Vengeance! Get your angry ass down here, we’re coming closer to the shore! Vengeance!”
Vengeance jerked awake, blinking to adjust his eyes to the daylight. He sat up and leaned over the edge of the crow’s nest, eyes focusing blearily on Zekara.
“Look ahead, you idiot!”
Vengeance turned to look ahead of them and realized that they were approaching the shore rapidly. To their right- what had to be south, he figured- looked to be a swamp in the distance, but everything else for miles were flatlands and rolling plains, with the distant shapes of towering mountains blurring the horizon. They were approaching the mouth of a river, and, as Zekara shouted to the crew, they intended to make landfall nearby. They’d stop the ship a short ways out from shore and send the prophecy group in with the smaller boats onboard. Then, the Dalanian crew would set sail back for home.
How they were planning to get back to the western continent, Vengeance didn’t know, but he decided not to worry about it as he climbed down from the crow’s nest to the deck below. He shoved the spyglass in his bag as he gathered his things- old habits died hard, he supposed, and he might need it later- and slung his pack over his shoulder.
He didn’t know what they were expecting to find out there, but he had a feeling that it was nothing good.
He exchanged grins with Ujhin as they stood on deck, waiting as the ship came to a halt and the last of their friends gathered. Watching Eclipse try to convince Nelvethia to sit still long enough to go into the small boat was amusing until Ujhin forced him to help, and it took almost five minutes before Zekara would stop reminding the crew about everything they could possibly have to do on the trip back to Dalania. They accepted this with a surprising amount of grace, although Barros eventually just shoved her into a boat and told her to get going, the fate of the universe was waiting on her or something.
Finally, the boats were lowered and they made their way to the western shore of Beskeren.
Stepping out onto the sand was an oddly silent affair, the reality of the situation hitting them as they stood and took their first breaths of Beskeren air.
They were probably the first humans to ever set foot here, and they very well may be the last.
Vengeance rubbed the Heart of Pain thoughtfully as the others slowly recovered from looking around at the rolling hills, the towering mountains in the distance, and the ominous darkness of the swamp to the south.
“Where do we go from here?” Eclipse asked quietly. Nelvethia rumbled softly and rubbed against Eclipse’s leg.
“East, I would guess.” Endira tapped her fingers against her leg. “I don’t really have any inkling other than that.”
“What do the shadows say?” Zekara asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Nothing. That’s what disturbs me.” Endira crossed her arms and shivered.
“Well, we might as well start walking.” Vengeance shrugged.
“We should follow the river. We don’t know if we’ll be able to find any other water around here,” Ujhin told them, motioning for them to follow. “It seems to be flowing northeast, and it’s at the very least something that’ll keep us alive.”
“I like being alive,” Vengeance decided, stepping forward to follow. “I’d rather be alive than dead.”
“Being dead isn’t exactly a party,” Zekara agreed, “although sometimes people sure do make it one. Vian especially-”
“Did you just...hang out with all of our dead friends over the last two hundred years?” Vengeance demanded. “Did you not have anyone better to talk to?”
“No, not really. When you’re dead, you have a hard time seeing and talking to spirits you don’t know at first. It was just easier to talk to them and, hey, we all got along. Who did you hang out with over the last two hundred years?”
Vengeance smirked. “You have no idea.”
“Too much information,” Endira decided, covering her ears. “Ujhin, can we please start walking? Make Vengeance put some effort into his legs instead of sharing?”
Ujhin rolled his eyes but led the way upriver, the others not far behind.
“So, what kinds of things do you suppose live here?” Zekara asked after about half an hour.
“Probably the usual animals, or similar variants,” Ujhin answered. “Birds. Insects. Deer. Wolves.”
“Cow people,” Endira added.
“Cow people?” Nessy asked, frowning. “What makes you say that?”
“No, I mean, cow people. Right there.” Endira stopped walking and pointed, and the group followed her motion to the half-dozen creatures that were carefully watching them from up a hill on the other side of the river.
They were tall, taller than skettisren and humans alike, at seven to eight feet. Their bodies were covered in fur, from black to white to brown, and horns curved from their heads. Short, cowlike tails swished behind them and three-fingered hands held stone spears, bows, and wooden staves. Large hooves stood easily on the grass and dirt of the plains, and six sets of brown eyes watched them cautiously from faces that were very clearly cowlike.
“Well, that’s new,” Vengeance mumbled, reaching for his sword. Ujhin held out a hand and touched his arm, stopping him, and slowly stepped forward, closer to the river.
“Hello. We mean you no harm.”
“Maah’roo kaavro niyhkaa bvoskai,” one of them replied, and Ujhin looked back at the group helplessly.
“What do you suppose that means?” Nessy frowned further.
“Priitah, bovan nuai vatu-fais jata, kesaroo?”
“Well, that’s fascinating,” Eclipse grumbled. “There are people here and we can’t even understand them.”
“That’s not really surprising,” Ujhin admitted. “Both the pesru and the kansru have their own language. It’s just that, due to so much contact with humans, they’ve had to learn to speak ours as well. Chances are good that these people have never encountered humans before.”
One of the cow people’s ears perked as he spoke. “Kansru? Maa’uia jagvah niitaroo? Cii’roo, vathlaa?”
Ujhin nodded. “Kansru. Okay, so we share a word. That’s great. Maybe it even means the same thing.” He motioned at his group. “Human. Humans.”
“Human?” The cow person- what had to be the leader, as they were the only one that had spoken so far- turned and mumbled with another member of its group. They nodded and turned back, firing off another rapid burst of their language.
Ujhin shook his head helplessly. “Human,” he repeated.
“Bovan,” the creature told him, then motioned at the group. “Boven.”
“Boven,” Ujhin mumbled. “Okay. So we know what they’re called.”
“Great! Does this have any bearing on our quest whatsoever?” Vengeance demanded.
“Probably. We don’t know what we’re looking for, other than a cure to the plague and a way to bring Vallor’roth back to life. Chances are good that the natives of the area could help us.”
“Maybe we’ll find a magical alchemist woman in the woods,” Vengeance suggested, “and she’ll give us stones that glow when we find people necessary to complete our quest.”
Everyone except Nessy looked at him like he’d lost his mind and he groaned. “You should remember this better than me,” he said accusingly, pointing at Ujhin. “And you weren’t in the group yet!” He pointed at Zekara. “Only goddamn Nessy knows what I’m talking about! You met her, didn’t you? I didn’t get to see the magical alchemist woman, no, not until we rebuilt Dalania and then she was Iirkolav’s ‘sister’ and wouldn’t talk to me most of the time like an asshole!”
Both Ujhin and Zekara stared at him uncomprehendingly while Nessy giggled hysterically.
“Skera? You know, the one you either don’t remember or died before you met? Her.”
“You’re an odd man, Vengeance,” Endira decided.
He threw his hands in the air and glared at her. “Who isn’t around here?! We’re a dead guy, me, a previously dead girl, a half-dragon, a darkness elementalist, an Ashenhorn, and a baby fucking dragon! And there’s six goddamn cow people across the river on a continent we didn’t know existed for a really long time! I’m so sick of this crap!”
One of the boven nudged another one and mumbled something, and they both snickered.
“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, fuzzballs,” Vengeance grumbled. “You’re not the ones with destiny knocking on your door all the damn time.”
“Shh, Vengeance. I’m going to try something.” Vengeance immediately quieted, looking at Ujhin curiously. He seemed to be trying to think, struggling to remember something, and when his eyes snapped open he stood with confidence and spoke in a language that Vengeance had heard only Baltbee use in angry or pained tones, bleating out unfamiliar words as he slammed his hand in a doorway or watched someone be painfully dismembered.
Wow. That got dark.
The boven blinked in surprise and mumbled amongst themselves, then the leader responded in kind. Ujhin grinned, satisfied, and turned back to the group.
“Guess who remembered how to speak kansru.”
“When and why did you learn to speak kansru, of all languages?”
“I don’t know, and I didn’t.” Ujhin turned back to the boven. “Samuel did.” He resumed speaking to the leader in rough kansru. Neither seemed particularly fluent, but it seemed to be enough to get by. The leader of the boven group eventually pointed her spear upstream and fired off a rapid series of instructions that Ujhin had her repeat before thanking her and translating for the benefit of his friends.
“She says that we’ve landed in the lands of the Vabos clan of boven, a strong and influential clan that has land all they way up through the forests to the north and to the coast. They don’t mind strangers and find us very interesting, although they were obviously a bit worried when they saw how armed we are. I told her we were on a prophecy quest and she insisted that we return with her to her home and speak to the seer there, but I told her we’re short on time as there’s a plague ravaging our home to the west and we were looking for a cure. Then she told me that there’s a great and powerful alchemist that lives upstream, in the darkest part of the woods deep within Kynta territory, and gave me specific instructions for following the river. We’ll need to pass through Vysha territory, but she said it shouldn’t be a problem.”
“If it’s Skera I’m going to tear my lungs out and eat them,” Vengeance said cheerfully. “Now fate is recycling portions of the past. It’s run out of ideas! There is literally no better way to direct a ragtag group of children than with an alchemist that lives in the deepest, darkest part of the woods and has been around for centuries. Watch. This alchemist is like...six hundred or something.”
Endira raised an eyebrow. “You really don’t like this.”
“No! I don’t! When will people understand this?!”
Ujhin had a brief conversation with the boven before nodding and watching them move off, back over the hill and to the north. He waved for his friends to follow him and continued leading the way upstream.
“How long will it take us to get there?” Eclipse asked, scooping up Nelvethia as she whined and bumped against her.
“Four days or so.”
“Great,” Vengeance mumbled. “My fate sure does involve a lot of walking.”
Skera was eerily silent as they gazed into the orb, watching it intently until the last of the boven faded from view. She slumped back in her seat, frowning.
Vechs caught her expression and matched it with a frown of his own. “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve seen a bovan before,” Skera said finally, lifted her eyes to lock on Vechs’. “She told me she was from the east, but she never said how far to the east. Damn you, Peesa!” She slammed her hands down on the armrests of her chair, creating a banging sound and startling the other Mindcrackers. “And if she’s still alive, which I have little doubt she is, they’re heading towards her, right now, and you can bet your damn asses that I’m going to keep good track of where she is and have a little talk with her about honesty and staying in touch when this is all over!”
“Who the hell is Peesa?” Zisteau demanded, frowning at her.
“My mentor. The one who taught me alchemy in the first place.” Skera crossed her arms. “And in a minute I’m going to be the one teaching her something, arrrhhg, she just vanished! What an asshole!”
Vechs put a hand on her shoulder. “Mom.”
“Don’t you mom me.”
“I’m not moming you. I’m not the mother here.” He grinned as she glared at him.
“That was awful.”
“You’re worse than me. And most of all you're worse than your brother-slash-self-slash-counterpart. He’s a mess.”
“I’m right here, you know!” Iirkolav protested.
“My one and a half sons are huge messes,” Skera proclaimed, “but so am I and I love them both.”
“And a half?” Iirkolav questioned.
“Well, each of you are half the same and half different. Since half of you both is the same, I decided that it doesn’t count twice. Therefore, one and a half.”
Vechs shrugged. “I can live with that.”
“As long as she doesn’t start removing more of my limbs to make me be an even half, yeah, sure.” Iirkolav motioned vaguely at his metal leg and grinned at the laughter he got.
Not that it would last.
Deep in the sector where the Hostiles spent most of their time, Oros wrapped tighter around his spire and shut his eyes, preparing himself for the inevitable event that would shake Paltross and had the potential to bring the last protectors against corruption to their knees.
He wouldn’t allow it, so he waited, knowing it would come soon enough.
Cycles upon cycles and death upon winds.