|What She Came For (standard:fantasy, 2874 words)|
|Author: Agesilaus||Added: Feb 24 2003||Views/Reads: 2198/1316||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Quarla, the Chosen of the Wood, comes to terms with what she is.|
What She Came For Quarla stopped, listened. Only wind sighing through the blinds, rattling them softly; nothing more. Easy, she told herself. Silent as Owl hunting wintermice she stole forward. Down the passageway, lined with Okjani tapestries, their blazing colors and surreal landscapes gray and lifeless in the dark. There, the hall on the left. No light there; only a musty, moldy smell wafting out on the nightbreeze like a memory of ancient corruption. The dark and the dead held no power over her. Fox had taught her stealth and speed, Bear courage, and Weasel dexterity. She was in and of the Wood; death and night were a part of the Wood, and of her. No halls like this in the Wood—no cold, dead stone, weeping murky water from black cracks like bloody tears. Quarla paid the hall no mind. Her goal was before her. A door, massive oak banded with rusted steel blocked the hall. Touching the wood lightly, she whispered to it, seeking entry. She grimaced slightly when it didn't respond. Hare had told her it would be so, but she'd not listened. Quarla hated it when Hare was right. He'd said the wood in the Tower would have long since forgotten autumn sunlight, chattering birds in the branches, and spring blossoms. The oak slumbered mightily, deep in dreams smothered in concrete, metal and slate. Taking a deep, secret breath, Quarla slid her hand into the wood. So dry! Slowly, far more slowly than she ever had before. Too fast and she could rip herself. Closing her eyes, she murmured comforting words she knew the oak didn't hear, then slipped her head and shoulders in. The wood slumbered so deeply it didn't react to her presence. It was gray, old, and desiccated. The old, sleeping oak saddened her a little. Her head slowly broke the back surface of the door, and she looked carefully into the room beyond. Round, with a vaulted ceiling, the room was bare except for a stone pedestal in the middle of the room. Carved granite, it resembled a crouching gargoyle, holding its clawed hands above its leering face. And she saw it then as she slipped agonizingly slowly through the comatose door. Suspended atop the slate the gargoyle held up. The Chthod spun softly, began to glow faintly yellow in response to Quarla's lifeforce entering its sanctuary. A stubby sword, with plain crossguard and wooden hilt wrapped in the rough hide of the hippogriff, it was Quarla's quest. She caught her breath. This was why she was here, all right. All that remained now was to take it, and go back out the way she'd come. So why did she hesitate? Had Huscurl been right after all? “What is this idiocy? ‘Chosen of the Wood'?”, he'd bellowed. Quarla stood and twisted her hands. She watched in horror as he'd flung the hieroglyph-etched birchbark billet into the hearth. She'd gasped, tried to retrieve the Eagle's message, but he'd pushed her back. “This is another of your ploys to continue to live off my labor,” he'd snarled, jabbing her with a thick finger. “I've had enough!” Moya had come to her defense, surprisingly. “Huscurl, soft. Why can't you give her a chance? You know my sister had the Sight.” He'd hawked and spat on the rushes. “World of good it did her too, dead these 12 years now, leaving her changeling here behind.” He'd turned back to Quarla. “What have you to say?” She had pulled herself up tall, wishing she looked more convincing, and said, “It is true. I have been Chosen, and I have seen the Way. Eagle's message is clear, if you'd only taken the time to read it.” Moya had regarded her closely. “How can we trust a block of wood written with what we cannot read? What can you do to show us, girl?” Interrupting, Huscurl had grunted, “let her bring me the Blaine's Chthod, out of the Smoke Tower itself, and I will begin to believe all Click here to read the rest of this story (223 more lines)
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