Tip of the Iceberg

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“So how’s the throat today?

McNeis skillfully prodded Corvus’ neck around the wound, partly healed. The spear had almost destroyed his throat, and only by a miracle did he not bleed to death before Sylrah got to him.

Corvus moaned and waved his hand, conveying a ‘so-so’. McNeis went about changing the wound dressing, and applying his balms on the horribly scarred tissue.

After a few moments, he broke the silence “So, are you going along better with Simid?”

At the corner of the cave, Osric looked up. “No, I’m not. The prick.” Corvus chuckled, and immediately gave a moan of pain. “Last night he left me buried up to my neck in the mud after drills, and the whole merry band shared a drink beside me. Not a drop for me, he said. Friggin prick.” Osric spat on the floor in disdain.

“Don’t be like that. He’s your instructor, and you’re gonna be thankfull for it someday.” McNeis glanced at Osric. “So, what’re you here for exactly?”

Osric sighed. “We’re here about something that’s been happening for a while. Me and Corvus. Since our trip to the Forbbidance.” Osric lifted his shirt and showed the physician his back.

Artair McNeis looked closer. “Did you got burned?” He approached the wulver. A large patch of skin on his back was completely darkened to brown, and coarse as if he had been skinned and it was now healing over. Then his eyes opened wide. For a moment he said nothing.

“What?” asked the wulver. “Is it bad?”

McNeis gestured towards Corvus for him to show it as well. The young man had a similar patch between his shoulder blades.

“It doesn’t really hurt or anything. It just itches a lot. What do you think it is?” Osric asked expectatly.

McNeis looked at the scabs more closely. A few moments of silence passed. The he looked at both of them very seriously. “Your skin looks like treebark... you’ve even got a tiny leaf sprouting on your back. I don’t know what the hell this is.”

The amulet was not very big, roughly 2 inches long. It looked like a tree embraced by two feathered wings.

Jose had been admiring it again, as he had every now and then. ‘Oh, you have magic in you, I know it.’ he thought. ‘Quite likely.’ The craftsmanship was quite good, and it’s likely it indeed belonged to that aelfen: the design fitted very well his idea of jewelry that an aelf would wear.

This time, he felt a small indentation on one of the side of the amulet. When he pressed it, the wings unfolded, and the medallion opened up: inside there was a small painting of an aelfen woman, very beautiful. Lining the rim of the interior was an unknown writing, shining in blue color in the light. There was a feeling of warmth, of easiness, as he admired the trinket. ‘Oh, you’re definitely magical.’

Soft steps rushed through the grass amid the roaring wind outside. Nothing could be seen in the darkness, but the little thing seemed to know perfectly where it was going. She hopped easily onto a stone to spot the cave entrance where this said Company of Races had set up camp.

‘Two biggun’s at guard. Late night, sandman makes eyelids heavy, and Red sneaks past just…like…that.’

All the two men could have noticed was a light breeze near their ankles, but with weather such as this, she passed by completely unnoticed. Only her pawprints on the dirt gave away her presence.

She searched for a while, studying amused the Man-people busy at work, or having their merry socializings. Then she spotted her: a little aelfen girl, looking quite out-of-place, surrounded by all these war-minded Man-people. She kept close to the cave wall, worrying that someone might be able to sense her presence. These natural caves seemed big enough to have many dark spaces where she could approach her in private, so she waited.

When Sylrah retired to her alcove, she followed her. Red peeked through the curtain that covered the entrance, and found the girl sitting on her bedroll, with an open book on her lap. ‘Let’s see how surprised she gets’.

“Greetings, little girl.” Sylrah jumped at the disembodied voice, stood up, looking around, confused, trying to find its source. “You scared me… who’s there?”

“Down here, little one. Don’t be scared.” Sylrah looked down, and saw two milk-white eyes materializing out of thin air, and a smiling mouth under them.

“Hi. Shush, shush, don’t be alarmed, I just want to talk to you.” Sylrah relaxes a bit, realizing she is in the presence of a Spirit creature. Her people always welcomed the Spirits, and she herself had seen a few before.

“H-hi… who are you?” she says.

“You can call me Red Jinx, and I have come to talk to you about a proposal.” A form took shape behind those white eyes: a sleek, red-furred creature, similar to a cat, with a bushy tail as a fox’s. “I come to help you, and teach you things you have never dreamed of. If you dare...” The little creature chuckled, and her face from some angles seemed too much like a person’s. “What say you, child?”

Sylrah realized what was being offered to her: the secrets of magic, from the Spirits themselves. That was the source of the power of the shamans of her people, secret pacts forged with Spirits with interest in the fates of mortals. Secrets that these Man-folk could never teach her. So far the only spells they shared with her were simple ones, even though she had vowed to fight beside them and follow their orders.

“Exactly what are you going to help me with? And what do you get in return?” she shot back.

“Well, I see you’re sharp. That’s good, I wouldn’t stomach a pushover, let me tell you. The, hum, forces I represent have all our best interests in mind, given the state of things. You are an important player in the matches to come, and we want to make sure you succeed.” The creature smiled wide at her, in a mockery of an innocent expression.

“Hummm… so… and exactly how are they, or you, going to help me?”

“Well, we’ll have to exchange blood, and a few words, and other things that I’ll tell you later... but what matters is that we will be bonded together. And I will take you to see things few have ever seen, and you will command powers you have always craved for.” Jinx smiled wide, revealing rows of pointed teeth. “So, what do you say, hum?”

“Gods-damned friggin’ apocalypse, not even the sun runs straight through the sky!”

Simid Andersen stood at the entrance of the caves, drinking his morning brew. The same as his nighttime brew.

“Just another stone in our shoe, boy. Bah, don’t tell me your surprised with our lot.” Quartermaster Raugran was as upbeat as ever.

The morning sun had risen up about two hours ago, but now was plunging into the horizon again for the last half hour.

“Holmes, I don’t know how you can get up each day.” Simid patted the quartermaster on the shoulder. “Hmm, did you know the folks from Luagon were also visited by these ‘old women’ travellers?”

“Hmm… it’s starting to become a trend. What can these old hags be telling to these people?” Raugran shook his head. "And where did they learn this raising-dead-hocus-pocus?"

“And why the hell can’t we find them?! What kind of hole are they hiding in?” Simid sipped more of his drink. “I just hope they’re not gonna prove more trouble than it is. The old women went around telling them they could get them to speak with their dead relatives, how about that for a lead? And get this: there was one family that were harassed by these women, and people saw them kicking the old bats out of their house.”

“And then? What do they had in special?" asked the quartermaster.

“They were the only pro-demihumans in the village.”